Monday, November 9, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Therese Raquin with Keira Knightley, Matt Ryan and Judith Light

Keira Knightley Makes Broadway Debut in Moody Period Piece
By Lauren Yarger
A film star making her Broadway debut isn’t always the lead when writing about a show, but in the case of Keira Knightley and Roundabout Theatre’s production of Thérèse Raquin, that probably is the most interesting thing about the production.

In early previews, the star was praised for going on with the show like a trouper when a fan threw flowers from the balcony and shouted a marriage proposal before being escorted from the building. Shortly after, the star sustained an injury and a show was cancelled.

Now that the show has opened at the appropriately dark Studio 54, Knightley, the  star of films like “Love Actually,” “First Knight (with Clive Owen also making his Broadway debut this Fall with Roundabout  in Old Times) and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” to name a few, still might be the most interesting to write about.

She gives a very good performance (directed by Evan Cabnet) and holds her own on a stage glittering with other stars like the always excellent Judith Light (Lombardi, Other Desert Cities – and TV’s “Who’s the Boss?”), handsome Matt Ryan (TV’s “Constantine”) and Gabriel Ebert (Brief Encounter). The play, adapted by Helen Edmundson, based on the novel by Emile Zola, is kind of a bummer with under-developed characters whom we don’t like much. All of this set on Beowulf Boritt’s grey, colorless set (which perfectly conveys the mood) with drab colors on 1868 period costumes (designed by Jane Greenwood) kind of have us checking our watches a lot during the two-hour and 30 minute look at an unhappy wife.

Thérèse agrees to a loveless marriage to her cousin Camille (Ebert) when his forceful and coddling mother, Madame Raquin (Light), insists. Hypochondriac Ebert seems disinclined to consummate the marriage and Thérèse sinks into the depression of boredom broken weekly by the visit of some friends: Superintendent Michaud (David Patrick Kelly), Monsieur Grivet (Jeff Still) and Suzanne (Mary Wiseman), who all have their own sort of monotonous routine.

One day, everything changes, however. Camille brings home his once childhood friend and philandering artist, Laurent (Ryan). Suddenly all of Thérèse’s pent up passions are unleashed and she and Laurent begin a passionate affair which has dire consequences for Camille and Madame Raquin, as well as for the adulterers themselves, who find it difficult to live with the choices they have made.
It’s a dark, brooding piece which somehow doesn’t satisfy. 

While Light was compelling as the controlling and vengeful mother, it seems her talent is underused in the role. Even a switch from the family’s home in a small village on the Seine to a new apartment in Paris doesn’t change the look. Everything is dark and gray. When Thérèse and Laurent first consummated their passion (and we get to see a lot of graphic coupling) I expected the walls of the room to glow, the light to soar to brightness (design by Josh Schmidt, who also contributes original composition) -- something like that -- but there is nothing. Their passion is as boring as everything else on stage (and as dark as the black interior décor of Studio 54).

Lighting and blocking also diminishes from the climax of the play when Madame Raquin enjoys some seeing some justice done.

Thérèse Raquin plays at Studio 54, 254 West 54th St., NYC through Jan. 3, 2016. Performances are  Tuesday - Saturday at 8pm Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm (check for changes during holiday weeks). Tickets $47–$137.

Christians might like to know:
--Sexual activity
-- Sexual dialogue

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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