Last night Impressionism — the December-December romance starring Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen — opened on Broadway. I was there. The show was…nice. (Saying something is nice, we all know, is really just a way to deflect one’s true feelings. Nice has become the beige of adjectives. How does my hair look? Nice. Did you hear the neighbor boy was caught humping a dead cat? But he seemed so nice. There you go.) So I will leave the drubbing of the show to the real critics, and just throw in my two-cents along the way. To the pull-quotes!
“But I’ve concluded that even if I were to back up all the way to the Hudson River, with half-open eyes fixed on the stage where Mr. Irons and Ms. Allen labor so valiantly, ‘Impressionism’ still wouldn’t look credible. I mean this both in terms of its plot and as a proposition that would entice some very talented people and a vast army of producers.” [NYT]
Treat though it was to see the likes of Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons tread the boards, they were not really challenged at all. The script swooped from sitcom zingers to Lifetime teevee mawkishness. (Much hay has been made of it being pared down from two-acts to one.) I wanted to see those two really knock it out, but they weren’t given the material to do it. Playwright Michael Jacobs, who had one show on Broadway before making his living in sitcom-land, did not deliver a script to match the caliber of the talent. It would be like getting the chance to dress Angelina Jolie for the Oscars and picking her outfit from the Jaclyn Smith collection.
“In between the many flashbacks featured in the new Broadway drama ‘Impressionism,’ digital projections of impressionistic paintings are displayed en masse, making the audience feel it has suddenly entered a downtown art gallery. In that way, ‘Impressionism’ feels more like a slideshow than a Broadway show.” [amNY]
Or, like a lecture in a community college art survey class.
“Not only does Andre De Shields, no less, have to play a crudely drawn African character in one of these flashbacks, but he reappears as one of those mystical black men, beloved in Hollywood, who show up at the end of a drama to dispense homespun wisdom so that the central white characters can get on with their lives.” [Chicago Tribune]
Yup, they deployed the “magical negro” convention, which is like the DEFCON 4 of schmaltz, not to mention a teensy bit offensive. (De Shields performed the character with humor and grace it should be said.)
“But the final scene, when the main characters let down their emotional guard and finally find a way to connect, is quite moving, making one nearly forgive the many missteps along the way.” [THR]
Because some trace of sentiment does still exist inside my weathered soul, I got a little choked up in the last scene. But then, I also found myself staring at Joan Allen’s shoes. They were fabulous! But that is probably not the desired takeaway.