Theater review by David Cote. Manhattan Theatre Club. By Liz Flahive. Dir. Leigh Silverman. With Edie Falco, Phoebe Strole. 2hrs 10mins. One intermission.
When the formidable Edie Falco wraps a season on Nurse Jackie, I imagine her hankering for live action. She’s ready to bite off a piece of Medea or try Shakespeare in the Park. Maybe she wants to learn what the fuss is about with Annie Baker or Thomas Bradshaw, go for something more experimental—didn’t Frances McDormand go slumming with the Wooster Group a few years back? Sadly, Falco has returned to the boards playing it safe. Not only is she sticking with her Nurse Jackie script editor, Liz Flahive, The Madrid is the sort of well-behaved, semi-quirky dramedy that has become boringly common at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Stage I.
At the center of this domestic yarn is a kernel that could stir the blood or even chill it: Kindergarten teacher, mother and wife Martha (Falco) decides to abandon her family. Without warning, she decamps for the titular seedy hotel, leaving behind a 21-year-old, still-finding-herself daughter, Sarah (Strole), and a sweet but passive husband, John (John Ellison Conlee). Eventually, she reestablishes contact with Sarah, but shows no remorse and refuses to explain herself, her face a bemused, perky mask. We learn that this runaway mom has a history of flightiness. But Flahive’s failure to unpack Martha’s psychology and her paint-by-numbers plotting lead to a drama vacuum as we wait for the inevitable (understated) showdown between husband and wife. I suspect that Flahive has been sitting on The Madrid for a while; its references to Match.com and Black Swan smell of a writer’s bottom drawer.
Director Leigh Silverman and a capable if uninspired cast give the affair a professional gloss. Rock music pipes in during scene transitions, possibly to wake up the audience. The best you can say about The Madrid is that it could have made an okay episode on network TV.—David Cote
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