The Royal Family

This glittery MTC revival is old-fashioned, and we don't mind it.

  • COUCH TOMATOES Maxwell, Kelli Barrett and Harris, from left, play three...

COUCH TOMATOES Maxwell, Kelli Barrett and Harris, from left, play three...

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Watching the velvet-robed, octogenarian Rosemary Harris glide like a swan over the glistening pond of The Royal Family, George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber’s farce about theater people, one might be tempted to mutter something to the effect that they just don’t make them like that anymore. Felicitously, however, Harris shares the stage with a living rebuke to such pessimism: the divine Jan Maxwell, who plays Harris’s daughter with the sparkle, bubble, sweetness and bite of properly aged and properly chilled champagne.

In less nimble hands than Doug Hughes’s, a revival of this 1928 poison-paean letter to the theater might have seemed stodgy. Instead, Manhattan Theatre Club offers a splendid spread of old-fashioned Broadway pleasures, from John Lee Beatty’s sumptuously overstuffed set to the luxurious casting of minor roles. (David Greenspan is the butler!) The main characters, the Cavendish family, are a Barrymore-or-less clan of self-dramatizing master thespians, so Kaufman and Ferber get to have it both ways: These people can be at once outrageously stagy and utterly true to themselves. Reg Rogers, as Maxwell’s swashbuckling brother, deserves special mention for his comic vim—he seems to move only in leaps and bounds—as do John Glover and Ana Gasteyer as Harris’s garish, grasping brother and sister-in-law. The acting, in fact, is fine all around: What they really don’t make anymore, for better or worse, is brittlely witty three-act comedies for large ensemble casts, and it’s nice to see the best of the genre taken out of the vault. The Royal Family proves that, with the right setting and polish, these old gems can still gleam.—Adam Feldman

See more Theater reviews

Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. By George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. Dir. Doug Hughes. With Jan Maxwell, Rosemary Harris, Reg Rogers. 2hrs 40mins. Two intermissions. Tickets