I cannot imagine that GREY GARDENS—either the 2006 musical or the 1975 Maysles brothers' documentary on which it was based—would have gained such popularity had its two mentally ill subjects not been immediate relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
But what begins as a promising study of a mother-daughter conflict descends, in its second act, into a pointless and mostly plot-less quagmire of pathology.
Justice Theater Project's stated intent was to shed a compassionate light on how the mentally ill are not cared for in America. I wish that, in itself, were enough to remove the tinge of schadenfreude—and the taint of freakshow, at points—that lingers over Grey Gardens.
Under Jerry Sipp's direction, Allison Lawrence convinced as a deluded, aging Edith Bouvier Beale, but Jeri Lynn Schulke blurted a number of her lines, sometimes talking too quickly to be intelligible, during the first act of the matinee we saw.
Multiple times during the show's musical numbers, voices in the cast shifted between pretending to be unable to sing (since Edith was no great vocalist) and experiencing true difficulty with the upper octaves and rhythm of Michael Santangelo's threadbare band.
The result is a problematic production of a problematic script. When song and dance numbers such as "The House We Live In," "Jerry Likes My Corn" and "Choose to be Happy" simply wallow in Edith and Edie's folie à deux, Grey Gardens hardly elevates its subjects or its audience.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Family values"