Thursday, November 1, 2018

Broadway Theater Review: The Waverly Gallery -- TOP PICK

Lucas Hedges, Elaine May, Joan Allen, David Cromer, Michael Cera. Photo: Brigitte Lacombe
The Waverly Gallery
By Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Lila Neugebauer
Golden Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
The Waverly Gallery in Greenwich Village has seen better days, It's not longer a vital part of the art landscape. No one comes in or thinks what it has to offer is important. The same can be said for its owner, elderly Gladys Green, played with astonishing alacrity and pathos by Elaine May, who no doubt will be nominated for a Tony.

With her mind and hearing fading, Gladys spends her days at the gallery passing time waiting for someone to come in and buy the less than exciting art displayed on its walls. When she's not there, she lives in an apartment behind the shop. As her health deteriorates, the anxiety of her family increases, especially as she repeats family stories ad nauseam and keeps messing with her hearing aid settings so the family has to incessantly yell or adjust them for her. Her grandson, Daniel (Lucas Hedges, who snagged an Oscar nomination for his role in playwright Kenneth Lonergan's film "Manchester by the Sea," making a noteworthy Broadway debut) lives next door and increasingly spends sleepless nights as his grandmother rings his bell to check in or ask for help.

Daughter Ellen Fine (a fabulous Joan Allen) knows what needs to happen. Her mother can't be on her own and must move in with her and her husband, Howard (a jovial David Cromer getting some time on stage instead of off stage where he has distinguished himself as one of Broadway's finest directors). She dreads it, though, and doesn't think she will survive the arrangement.  The family gets a little help from Don Bowman (Michael Cera), an awkward guy from Boston who fancies himself a talented artist. Gladys offers him a place to stay and his dream come true: a show in a Greenwich Village gallery. Don helps look after Gladys a bit, but disaster strikes when the building owner decides to turn the gallery into a restaurant and gives Gladys her notice.

The story is told through the eyes of Daniel, who steps out of the action (with excellent lighting by Brian MacDevitt)  to serve as a narrator from time to time. His rapport with the audience is not severed when he returns to the action and we cannot help but appreciate his subtle humor.

David Zinn's set creates a feeling of imposing doom as a second story of brick towers above the gallery location with exterior walls blocking escape. Director Lila Neugebauer expertly guides time passages and our heart breaks as Gladys deteriorates. Allen's performance as the daughter torn between loves, duty and despair is gut-wrenching. May's fear as she realizes what is happening to her -- then when she doesn't understand any more what is happening to her -- is palpable. The 86-year-old gives a bold, extraordinary performance that should not be missed.

May's iconic show An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May played the Golden Theatre  in 1960. She is a Grammy Award winner and an Academy and Golden Globe Award nominee (and like I said, be will be adding Tony-Award nominee to that in May...)

Lonergan's script is a delight. He packs an amazing amount of character development, engaging dialogue and emotion in to just two hours and 10 minutes. It deserved its Pulitzer Prize nomination in 2000.

More information:
The Waverly Gallery plays at the John Golden Theatre, 252 W, 45th St., NYC.

Additional Credits:
Ann Roth (Costume Design), Leon Rothenberg (Sound Design), Tal Yarden (Projection Design) and Luc Verschueren and Campbell Young Associates (Hair and Makeup Design).

--God's name taken in vain

Listen to my review on the radio at

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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 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. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other 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 wrote 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 was a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly 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- 2022 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 or people of a certain race 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. 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 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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