The Columbus Dispatch
Quintet of frank females creates roar on Broadway
March 2, 2013
NEW YORK – A brigade of outspoken women is poised to take over Broadway this season, turning New York stages into personal podiums and, quite possibly, pedestals.
For these are women (and one young girl) who have inspired veneration and emulation through the years – and, in one notable case, through millenniums.
Hailing from the worlds of American politics, Hollywood, children’s literature, urban fable and the Bible, they are figures prone to saying what other people won’t or can’t. This means that even when these characters whisper, their voices carry the volume of bullhorns.
It also means that actresses bold enough to play them have the opportunity to make 10-course meals of their roles and to grab the Tony nominating committee by the lapels.
Holly Golightly is not, strictly speaking, a truth teller. This glamorous gamin, created by Truman Capote in the 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is a masterpiece of self-invention, a country girl transformed into the ultimate big-city party girl and, to use Capote’s words, “American geisha.” Immortalized by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie, Miss Golightly will return on March 20 to the Cort Theatre. Emilia Clarke, who has been occupying the tumultuous Middle Ages for several seasons on HBO’s Game of Thrones, will time-travel to mid-20th-century Manhattan to embody the willowy and wily Holly.
And then there’s Matilda Wormwood, the youngest but by no means weakest of the season’s female powerhouses. True, the title character of Matilda the Musical, a British import that will open April 11 at the Shubert Theatre, is a mere schoolgirl. But she possesses the gift of telekinesis and, just as important, a gift for language – both of which come in handy when she leads a revolution against a tyrannical headmistress.Adapted from Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s book, Matilda is about both speaking up and taking control of the narrative of your life. Matilda will be played in rotation by four young actresses: Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro. As Matilda sings at one point, “Nobody but me is going to change my story.”
Mengers stormed and set up camp in a traditionally male bastion. She was an uber-agent in Hollywood, where the corridors of power are even more slippery and treacherous than those of Washington.She will be played by an actress who knows about Hollywood: Bette Midler, who will open on April 24 at the Booth Theatre in John Logan’s I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers. Because one of the show’s producers is Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, a friend and mythologizer of Mengers (who died in 2011), it seems safe to assume that this portrait of an agent will be friendlier than the savage cartoons inspired by her in the film satires The Last of Sheila and S.O.B.
The former governor of Texas, who died in 2006, has been reincarnated for the stage by Holland Taylor.
Richards stole the 1988 Democratic National Convention with one of the most quotable political speeches in recent memory, including the notable description of George H.W. Bush as having been “ born with a silver foot in his mouth.”
Those words are not cited in Ann, the one-person show written by and starring Taylor, which will open on Thursday at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. But there are plenty more quips where that one came from, because Richards, when the occasion required, was a master of salty phrases that stung.
The Virgin Mary
Although Taylor and Midler had the chance to meet the women they are portraying, the same cannot be said for Fiona Shaw, who will appear in yet another one-woman show: The Testament of Mary, opening April 22 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
Shaw, last seen on Broadway in 2003 as the child-killing title character of Euripides’ Medea, is taking on a very different and, even more famous, mother – perhaps the most famous mother of them all.
The Testament of Mary is an intense monologue centered on the Crucifixion of Jesus and its aftermath from the unflinching perspective of his mother.
Unlike Richards and Mengers, Mary doesn’t quip wise. But like the others, she has plenty to say about a world ruled and ruined by men.
“I tell the truth not because it will turn night into day,” Mary says. “I speak simply because I can.”