Uma Thurman debuts on Broadway in Beau Willimon’s play
Captivating performance, high pace acting, foxy intrigue – these are the characteristics that any theater production would want to hear in its regard. And “The Parisian Woman” written by Beau Willimon and directed by Pam McKinnon is scoring high on each one of them. The cast with Uma Thurman in the title role, Josh Lucas, Marton Csokas, Phillipa Soo and Blair Brown are doing an incredible job in keeping the audience in their grip. The performances at Hudson Theater will continue until March 11, 2018.
The play opened on Broadway on November 30, 2017, with reviews praising the actors while pinpointing how the script and the story could be made more edgy.
The wishful thinking about ways to spice the play up are particularly true since the scriptwriter Beau Willimon is so well-known for portraying the wicked kinks of Beltway politics in “The House of Cards” TV-series. But the play is not a tamed version of barbaric attitudes in the Underwoods’ world, but a tale with its own well-timed twists and accents. Uma Thurman is the glue of the play given the gravity of her role with everyone in the cast giving equally dramatic performance. If at times it feels stiff is because the people operating in the circles of power particularly nowadays’ politicians are like that. The wicked minds of a tax-lawyer or a banker with access to those holding the strings of power are accustomed to move in that self-gratifying space. Thurman’s character Chloë is masterfully exploring those inclinations.
This all may be good in theory but for a sophisticated audience, the script doesn’t look bulletproof. It borrows its title from the late 19th-century play by Henry Becque “La Parissiene”. There even was a movie made based on it with Brigitte Bardot in the title role. Together with the title, Willimon uses the centerpiece, a political manipulator wife, played by Thurman. Chloë, Thurman’s character, surrounds herself with useful people and applies her charms to extract the favors from everyone around her. While the acting, the set design, and the pacing are flawless, some elements of the intrigue don’t seem to be that much intriguing given the changes in our society. A grain of salt to consider here is the fact that the action takes place in the high circles of D.C. which leaves in its own bubble. But then again given what everyone already knows from “The House of Cards”, The Parisian Women storyline is rather muted.
The New York Times review describes the play as “a collection of every cozy cliché” and catchphrases from the late-night news programs. Those at times innocuous name-dropping while making the play look like a continuation of the reality unfolding in daily news, don’t let the characters develop their depth. Variety points out that Willimon is “missing his chance to turn this mannered trifle into a substantive political drama”. To sum it up, it “could really be about any era in Washington” in the words of The New Yorker review.
The important thing is that the top-notch performance by the cast and flawless pacing keeps everyone in the audience at full attention and craving to continue watching.
Venue: Hudson Theater, 141 W 44th Street, NY, NY Dates: November 20, 2017 – March 11, 2018