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|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
By Laura Hitchcock
The theme of Richard Nelson's absorbing Franny's Way is embodied in the charismatic figure of Penny Fuller when, as the Older Franny, she looks back on her younger self. Its in Fuller's poise, her wry self-aware smile, her warm luminous eyes and in the moments of remembered pain that play across her mobile face like shadows over a sunny countryside. Emotion is not recollected in tranquility here but you see the acceptance of what a rich and varied life has made of Franny.
Nelson, who also directed, has made a few minor changes since his play debuted at New York's Playwrights Horizons (see review) but the basic structure remains the same. In 1957 Marjorie (also played by Fuller) brings her 17-year-old granddaughter Franny and 15-year-old granddaughter Dolly to visit their cousin Sally and her husband Phil. The stunning first scene depicts the tragedy that precipitates the visit. The week-end becomes an exploration of love and loss in different ways by all the characters.
It's left to Marjorie to paint word pictures of New York so vivid you can see them and to recount with broad belly laughs how her father once sent her to New York to be safe from the boys working his farm. The naivite of an age when a farmer can believe New York is safe is one of Nelson's most telling details.
Domenica Cameron-Scorsese is vibrant and needy as the still-childlike Dolly who plots a meeting with the mother who left them. Elisabeth Moss plays the younger Franny, already sexually active, also plotting a rendez-vous with a past boyfriend now at NYU. Dolly keeps her illusions but Franny's not allowed to and that propels her into an action that's already brewing in Phil and Sally's sexually charged cold-water flat. Susan May Pratt who, with Fuller, is a new cast member, plays the ends of Sally, from anguish to a snide jealous sideswiping at her younger cousins to a healing fulfillment. Jesse Pennington, the token male, ranges from boyishness to bewildered withdrawal.
Nelson has a knack for writing and directing women, particularly the relationship between the sisters who bicker and scorn each other but who draw together, instinctively seeking each other's body space, when the others are in conflict or attack mode. The realistic cold-water flat is designed by Thomas Lynch. David Weiner's excellent lighting is an essential element, crucial for the scenes that take place in the dark room dimly illuminated by street lights. Susan Hilferty's costumes are authentically vintage 1950s.
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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