|Molly Ringwald and Hannah Dunne. Photo: Carol Rosegg|
By Dan Gordon
Directed by Michael Parva
The Directors Company
Through Dec. 11
An Excellent Film-to-Stage Adaption So Good It Will Make You Cry
By Lauren Yarger
The final lines of dialogue were spoken, the stage went black and the entire audience was crying. Normally, this would be a director's worst nightmare, but when the play is Terms of Endearment, an audience full of sobs means a job well done.
The American Premiere, written by Dan Gordon, based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Larry McMurtry ("Lonesome Dove") and the Oscar-winning screenplay by James L. Brooks, is getting a limited run by the Directors Company at 59E59 and there's definitely a shortage of tissues at the end of this tearjerker.
Gordon is a master of touching the emotions -- he brought us the terrific Irena's Vow on Broadway a gripping true tale of a woman who successfully hid Jews under the nose of the Nazis during World War II. Starring here is Molly Ringwald (OK, I was ready to shed tears already when I realized the teen who first came to our attention in the films "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" is old enough to play the mother part -- where does the time go?). She gives a powerful performance directed by Michael Parva, who manages to assemble a cast that puts us in mind of the film's iconic stars without trying to imitate them.
Ringwald is a feisty and quirky an Aurora Greenway (think Shirley MacLaine), an overbearing mother who disapproves when her daughter, Emma (Hannah Dunne, and excellent actress who reminds us of Debra Winger), marries deadbeat philanderer Flap Horton (Denver Milord). The mother-daughter relationship is filled with many disagreements tempered by love through daily visits over the years until Emma and her family move to Iowa where Fla finds a teaching job.
Visits continue by phone and Aurora shares some of what is happening in her life in Texas, The longtime widow has found happiness with her astronaut neighbor Jeb Brown (Garrett Breedlove from TV's “Blacklist”), but it's complicated. Neither one expected to find a lasting relationship, especially Brown, who has made a career of having sex with a lot of younger women to feed his aging ego. (And gosh, Breedlove looks a lot like Jack Nicholson -- wig and makeup design by Amanda Miller).
When Emma returns home, it's not for a happy reason: she has cancer and Aurora and Flap must somehow work out terms to get along so they can support Emma and make decisions about what will be best for the children. And Brown needs to step up to support Aurora. Jessica DiGiovanni rounds out the cast as Emma's best friend, Patsy.
This production really is a perfect representation of the popular film, played out on a multi-roomed stage with one set (designed by David L. Arsenault) with time passages projected above. Gordon's script captures all of the humor of the characters and the emotion of their relationships. I don't think I ever have heard such sobbing in the theater.
You can go have a cleansing cry while Terms of Endearment plays through Dec. 11 at 59E59, 59 East 59th St., NYC (but bring a packet of tissues-- I had to lend some of mine to the teens in my row who were sobbing their guts out). Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm. (No performance on Thanksgiving). Tickets are $25 - $70: www.59e59.org; 212- 279-4200.
-- God's name taken in vain