Review: Be a Good Little Widow

A young newlywed loses her husband and her sense of self.

  • Photograph: Ben Arons

    MOURNING GLORIES Eikenberry, left, offers Schmidt grief counseling

    MOURNING GLORIES Eikenberry, left, offers Schmidt grief counseling.

  • Photograph: Ben Arons

    Be a Good Little Widow

    Be a Good Little Widow

  • Photograph: Ben Arons

    Be a Good Little Widow

    Be a Good Little Widow

  • Photograph: Ben Arons

    Be a Good Little Widow

    Be a Good Little Widow

Photograph: Ben Arons

MOURNING GLORIES Eikenberry, left, offers Schmidt grief counseling

MOURNING GLORIES Eikenberry, left, offers Schmidt grief counseling.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Melody (Wrenn Schmidt) was barely a wife before she becomes a widow. At 26, she's still struggling with the responsibilities of adulthood and marriage when her corporate-lawyer husband dies in a plane crash. In Bekah Brunstetter's tender and oddly charming Be a Good Little Widow, immature Melody collides with another widow: her mother-in-law, Hope (Jill Eikenberry), the very model of unemotional grieving.

Schmidt's slight build and delicate voice carry a heap of emotional range as Melody—displaced from Colorado to her husband's home state of Connecticut—struggles to connect with her new surroundings. (Daniel Zimmerman dresses the living-room set to Pottery Barn perfection.) Melody isn't even sure how she feels about husband Craig (Chad Hoeppner), who's only a few years her senior but far more secure in the world, when she loses him. The only kindred spirit she finds is Brad (Jonny Orsini), her husband's underling and her equal in inability to cope with Craig's death.

Brunstetter's strength of characterization and fine ear for dialogue highlight the often humorous, slight proceedings, especially where her three younger characters are concerned. "I'm sure marriage is, like—super intense," Brad philosophizes, mustering all his powers of self-expression. Stephen Brackett's nuanced direction allows his cast, particularly Schmidt and Orsini, the space to create satisfying and endearing characters, but Eikenberry, while avoiding mother-in-law stereotypes, doesn't put as much bite into Hope as she could. Brunstetter's plot travels a reasonably predictable route, with matters tied up too neatly by play's end, but there are plenty of pleasing pit stops along the way.

See more Theater reviews

Ars Nova. By Bekah Brunstetter. Dir. Stephen Brackett. With ensemble cast. 1hr 20mins. No intermission.