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A CurtainUp Review
Hello. ..Pat, you're exaggerating. Teddy did not say he couldn't go on unless he had a new life. . .Pat, you don't seem to appreciate what your brother is going through. . .Do you know how difficult it was for Teddy to go to the funeral? . . .Of course I went. It was my duty. I talked to Mr. and Mrs. Kopechne and told them of my own grief, my own tragedies, and I think I helped them.— Rose
Kathleen Chalfant (photo: Carol Rosegg
It would be easy enough to say something like "What a woman!, What a life!, What a family!" regarding Rose, the one-woman show by Laurence Leamer about Rose Kennedy, the staunch matriarch of a family of high achievers. What I'm more inclined to say is that Leamer's play is deficient in almost every way to make Rose's story more involving and/or compelling for those who may not be ardent camp followers. Based on 40 hours of taped interviews made by Rose while working on her ghost-written autobiography) Rose is channeled though the terrific Kathleen Chalfant.

As the very Catholic, very wealthy, very motivated woman Rose is unquestionably the indomitable defender of her clan through thick and thin. But Chalfant can only do so much under the overly cautious direction of Caroline Reddick Lawson. What she does do, however, is a class act. It's just too bad that our visit with Rose has all the dramatic punch of a lecture on underwater basket weaving. Even with the help of projected slides and photos (mostly too faded to see clearly) our interest wanes pretty quickly.

If there is an inherent dramatic arc readily built-into Rose's life, there appears very little evidence of it in this play that reveals virtually nothing more than we already know about the Kennedys or Rose in particular. If you either read Leamer's trilogy on the Kennedys (The Kennedy Women , The Kennedy Men and Sons of Camelot), or simply paid attention during the previous century, you could, nevertheless, still find Chalfant's warmly imperious performance an interesting addendum.

Chalfant certainly gives us more than an inkling of a mother and wife who was apparently incapable of demonstrating more than a largely reserved/restrained if not necessarily obligatory love to either her children or to her largely absent philandering husband Joe. What I find remarkable is how Rose's virtually estranged relationship with Joe was no barrier to bearing his children. She does get some juices flowing when she comes across a packet of love letters that passed between Joe and the silent screen star Gloria Swanson.

Chalfant has nicely acquired the look of a 79 year-old patrician with her perfectly coiffed, dark tinted hair, the chic white brocade pants suit and the string of pearls around her neck. I suspect the pearl earrings were costume jewelry as they were clip-ons that she deftly removed each time she answered the numerous phone calls that interrupted her too often doleful soliloquy.

The Rose that greets us is notably filled with high anxiety as she welcomes a church group from Ireland (that's us) into the living room (unimpressively furnished by Anya Klepikov) of the Kennedy home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. She tell us it is because Teddy is out sailing off the coast, and Rose is anxious for him to return. This only a week after Teddy has been implicated in the accidental drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne.

For the most part a low-key performance, Chalfant has a few opportunities to openly display a little anger as well as a few more guardedly nuanced emotions — all however, defining a woman who was determined to remain composed and in control, especially in front of an intrusive press and a nosy public.

What I found funny was how casually she was able to reveal so much playing hostess to a church group, even taking the time to answer urgent callers such as Eunice, Joan, Pat and others who all seemed to be in either some momentary or monumental crisis. She handles them all with the disarming tone of someone who has learned how to rise above it all. Rose's exhilaration is short lived but palpable when she thinks she hears Teddy finally arriving back safely. So is ours.

Rose by Laurence Leamer
Directed by Caroline Reddick Lawson

Cast: Kathleen Chalfant
Scenic Design: Anya Klepikov
Costume Design: Jane Greenwood
Lighting Design: Caitlin Smith Rapoport
Sound Design; Jane Shaw
Projection Design: Anya Klepikov & Lianne Arnold
Stage Manager: Emily Paige Ballou
Production Manager: Joshua Kohler
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes no intermission
Clurman Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street
(212) 239 - 6200
Tickets: $65.00
From 11/21/15 Opened 11/30/15 Ends 12/13/15
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 12/01/15
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