There are certain plays where I’d like to have been privy to the prologue. What was George doing Saturday before he went to the park on Sunday? Was the fiddler on the balcony before he made his way up to the roof? And was there a funny baby before there was a Funny Girl?
But I especially wanted to know the indignities that Thérèse Raquin suffered at the hands of her cousin and aunt to make her so SEVERELY repressed in Roundabout’s production of the play. I knew the bare outline of the story but certainly didn’t expect a story of betrayal and passion to be so lifeless and non-electrifying. I have to assume the director (Evan Cabnet) told Keira Knightley to at first be a mute, then go off the deep-end in her portrayal of a woman who is sexually awakened. Cabnet must have also told Matt Ryan,Thérèse’s lover, not to exclaim “Thérèse, stop staring at me, you’re freaking me out.” Gabriel Ebert, Thérèse’s cousin/husband, who I’ve loved in other productions, was a caricature of a man-child. Only Judith Light as Madame Raquin comes away unscathed. She is by turns dismissive, a Tiger Mom, and moving.
Knightley is more alive and sexual in a Chanel perfume commercial currently running on TV. There’s a difference between playing a shy, beaten down young woman who comes to life when meeting the man of her fantasies and what comes across as a woman with a mental illness who is unhinged and becomes further so. (Think Cherry Jones in “The Heiress.”) I wish I could see another production of this play with more spark and heart. AFW
Studio 54, 254 W 54th Street
Discount tickets: thru Theatermania & BroadwayBox
Through January 3, 2016
Running time: 2 hours & 30 minutes, one intermission