The Country Girl
Wed May 7 2008
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
Persnickety purists (and no one else) will be happy that a certain scene from The Country Girl, cut from the first act during previews, has been restored to Mike Nichols’s revival of Clifford Odets’s 1950 play. Would that it had stayed on the rehearsal-room floor. Not only does the scene in question hobble the tenuous momentum of Odets’s plot, but also—since it involves only Frank Elgin (Freeman), a once-renowned actor, and his tense wife, Georgie (McDormand)—it banishes offstage the best reason to see this otherwise oomphless production: Peter Gallagher as Bernie, a theater director willing to give Frank another shot at fame.
What Frank really needs is a shot of adrenaline. Freeman is oddly blasé and deferential, coasting mellowly through a role—an alcoholic thespian in the valley of career death—that offers ample room for volatility; he never quite folds, but he keeps the stakes low. And McDormand seems miscast as the possibly unstable Georgie, whom she imbues with a studied astringency that negates the sexual frisson she is meant to share with Bernie. Of the principal cast, only Gallagher gives credible punch to Odets’s on-the-nose dialogue, but his efforts can’t jolt the evening out of its lethargy. (During lengthy pauses between scenes, a red curtain sweeps hypnotically across the stage, weighing down eyelids in its wake.) In Nichols’s account of this talky backstage drama, there’s not much life in the wings; the play flaps and flaps, but doesn’t take flight.