Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Neil Simon at the Neil Simon

This is some information on the Broadway Cares production of 'Neil Simon at the Neil Simon' in 2000. Haven't really heard much about this, but Jennifer Ehle and Rosemary Harris were both involved.

This is not to say that there was no through-line to the evening. As the first excerpt very clearly intimated in which Jennifer Ehle plays Nina, an actress from Odessa, who hilariously auditions in front of Chekhov himself in a scene from The Good Doctor -- the event was nothing more or less than an attempt by eager actors to perform the work of a playwright in front of an audience.

Indeed, Ehle was quite effective as Nina. Vulnerable and shy, Ehle's Nina evinced an effective passive-aggressive stance in which she used her beauty and warmth to endear herself to the unseen playwright/director but then managed to throw zinging one-liners and remarks that exposed a very headstrong personality.

Rosemary Harris was simply sensational as Grandma, opposite Julie Kavner's Bella, in the heartrending mother-and-daughter scene from Lost in Yonkers. Harris used a cold, imperious Yiddish accent that was the quintessence of transformation. It reminded audiences how grossly underused she was as an actress in Waiting in the Wings, and it even made one wonder what she would have been like if she played the Jewish immigrant in Rose which recently starred Olympia Dukakis on Broadway.

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