59E59 Theaters, New York
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A.R. Gurney is “best known for his chronicles of the disappearing species” of East Coast WASP aristocracy, said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. But he “has been just as passionate in considering the decline of live theater.” Both themes permeate this 2001 play. Leave it to Gurney to also work in a love letter to his hometown of Buffalo and an homage to his primary influence, Anton Chekhov. Amanda, a Buffalo-born actress, returns to upstate New York to play Madame Ranevskaya in a local production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Like her character, Amanda is “home to revisit the world that shaped her, perhaps for the last time.” Both are women on the decline, finding out the hard way that you can’t go home again. Gurney, like Chekhov, clearly loves his characters, and Buffalo Gal “glows with a rueful affection that makes it impossible to dislike.”
The parallel plots are a “witty idea,” but Amanda proves captivating all by herself, said Joe Dziemianowicz in the New York Daily News. As played by Susan Sullivan, Amanda is a perfect mix of comic and the tragic. Her interactions with the locals—her ambitious local theater director; a former drama school chum; her old Buffalo flame, now a successful dentist—are strained. Yet she’s clearly looking for a more genuine life than the one she has in Hollywood, where she’s up for a sitcom part as a character named Granny Sweetpants. Sullivan herself has acted extensively on television, but seems right at home onstage. Why doesn’t she do more theater?
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