The Revisionist, Belleville, Old Hats and Talley’s Folly

Revisionist is overrated, Belleville is a bummer and Old Hats needs more. But Talley’s Folly is terrific!

The Revisionist   (2 stars)
Belleville   (3 ½ stars)
Old Hats   (3 stars)
Talley’s Folly   (5 stars)

If Jesse Eisenberg weren’t a movie star, no one would be producing his amateurish play, The Revisionist.  But he is and somehow he talked Vanessa Redgrave into co-starring with him, so Rattlestick jumped on it.  Staged in the Cherry Lane, The Revisionist is the story of an ill-mannered, self-absorbed novelist who goes to Poland to visit a lonely, distant relative in order to finish a book that’s overdue.  Pot is smoked, vodka is drunk, legs are shaved and, finally, secrets are revealed in this rambling, cliché-ridden piece notable only for Redgrave’s occasional moments of magic.  For his part, Eisenberg plays the same character he plays in everything which is good practice, no doubt, for the inevitable film version.

Amy Herzog’s Belleville is a bit of a disappointment.  Having gone through several drafts, not to mention several different endings in its Yale Rep debut (in Oct, 2011), Belleville is a study of the disintegration of a young marriage that’s not what it seems – not by a long shot.  Herzog has written provocative characters that slowly, methodically and mysteriously are revealed to be depressed, controlling, and sociopathic.  But it’s a tribute to actors Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller that Belleville is interesting and compelling while you’re watching it.  On reflection in the days following, however, Herzog’s writing and characters defy credulity and Belleville feels more irritating than authentic.

Old Hats, Bill Irwin and David Shiner’s new collection of clowning and mischief, is a delight even if it feels slightly half-baked.  Stretched out to two acts, Old Hats needs more clowning by its stars and fewer musical interludes from Nellie McKay.  McKay is charming, and her songs are cute, but we’re there to see Irwin and Shiner strut their stuff.  Their skit featuring a second-rate magician and his jealous assistant is the kind of inspired fun of which Old Hats could use a lot more.

Run, don’t walk, to see the fabulous, new revival of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly starring Danny Burstein and Sarah Paulson.  Originally written for Judd Hirsch and Trish Hawkins at Circle Rep in 1979, Talley’s Folly moved to Broadway in 1980 where it won the Pulitzer.  A funny, heart-warming story of a couple coming together against seismic odds in 1944, Michael Wilson’s production is sheer perfection and Burstein & Paulson are sensational.

Rattlestick’s The Revisionist plays through April 21 at the Cherry Lane (80 Commerce St, TheRevisionistPlay.com).  Belleville plays through March 31 at New York Theatre Workshop (79 E 4th St, NYTW.org).  Old Hats plays through April 14 at Signature (480 W 42nd St, SignatureTheatre.org).  Talley’s Folly plays through May 5 at Roundabout’s Laura Pels (111 W 46th St, RoundaboutTheatre.org).

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