Oscar E Moore

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MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON – Laura Linney remembers

January 21st, 2020 by Oscar E Moore


O ye of little patience.  Ye who do not appreciate the written words of Rona Munro who has adapted Elizabeth Strout’s 2016 bestseller My Name is Lucy Barton featuring two extremely complicated characters – Mother and daughter Lucy.

Both portrayed by the outstanding Laura Linney who seamlessly with a change of voice or mannerism creates the illusion of becoming one and then the other.  It’s a fascinating and complex performance, beautifully directed by Richard Eyre.

O ye of little faith in what theater can accomplish with a simple set (Bob Crowley) consisting of a hospital bed, an empty chair and some projections (Luke Hall) of some corn fields in Amgash, Illinois and the Chrysler Building in New York City – be forewarned.  This may not be for you.  You may find it slow.  Even boring.

How this is possible I do not understand.  It is an in depth examination via Lucy’s scattered memory of the relationship or lack thereof between herself – a successful writer – and her opinionated and full of what-she-thinks-of-everyone-else stories mother.  It’s the “Old lack of communication” bit told beautifully.

Lucy had to get out of her abusive environment with her dad – who suffered from war trauma.  She had to deal with a friend with AIDS.  Her brother liked to dress up in mom’s dress and heels and she hated the cold.  So much so that she had to stay at school to read and to keep warm.

These memories float around and it’s a wonder that Laura Linney could learn all her lines and learn to jump around from one idea to another.  And make it all real and believable.  She is alone onstage for 90 nonstop minutes.  Not really.  There are some audience members seated onstage to make it more intimate.

Does she remember exactly how things happened or did not happen?  Should she have questioned – connected more with her mom?  What is most important, however, is that she escaped.  Escaped from Illinois and made a new life for herself in New York developing a ruthlessness necessary for being a successful writer.

Estranged from her parents and relatives – especially her mom until mom shows up at the hospital where Lucy eloquently describes it all – over her nine week stay (infectious complications arise) – her poverty, her trying to understand her mom and her loneliness.  Her longing for love despite being married with two daughters of her own.

Her mom’s stories are bitter, resentful and amusing.  But they both still can’t talk honestly with one another.  As the lyric from Superstar states “Loneliness is such a sad affair.”  We listen.  Some with empathy.  Some without.

At the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre – a Manhattan Theatre Club presentation and The London Theatre Company in association with Penguin Random House Audio that will soon be releasing an audio version of this production with Linney who is at the top of her game.  Live through February 29, 2020



Photos:  Matthew Murphy

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