Corrections or additions?

This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

on June 17, 1998. All rights reserved.

Broadway Review: `Honour’

It will take more than a "u" in

"Honour"

to bring importance or class to this piece of predictable and

laughable

claptrap about a trusting middle-aged woman and her erring husband

who does her wrong. Written in 1995 by Australian Joanna Murray-Smith,

"Honour" plays as if it had been written in 1935. A kangaroo

court would not find it difficult to find the writer guilty of

Mamet-izing,

even as it credits her irritating, repetitive, staccato dialogue for

merely facetiously hono(u)ring its model. A higher court will

undoubtedly

quickly and mercifully send this impoverished drama to its just

reward.

[In fact, it already has: the play closed last week.

The only bright light in this dim play about a stagnating 32-year-long

marriage, is Jane Alexander. As the title character (spelled without

the u), Alexander fights, as she did in real life in Washington, D.C.,

as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, for respect and

credibility

among cretins. The elegant, radiant, and valiant Alexander plays

Honor,

an elegant, radiant and valient former poetess who dutifully gave

up her writing and career for comfy housewifery.

Has Honor given up too much of herself and self-worth to support the

career and values of her successful, chauvinist husband, Gus (Robert

Foxworth), a renowned political columnist? Has it been rewarding

enough

for Honor to loom in her husband’s ever-widening shadow, as well as

linger about for Sophie (Enid Graham), their intelligent,

college-educated

daughter?

Is there now, after 32 years of togetherness, anything deeper or more

bonding than financial security in their staid and unexciting

relationship?

Is Honor, gray-haired, wearing her roomy blue pantsuit with

conservative

flair, any match for the likes of Claudia (Laura Linney), a leggy,

aggressive 29-year-old blonde graduate student in a red miniskirt?

We find out when Claudia returns again and again to the couple’s home

to interview the erudite, pontificating Gus, that he is a pushover

for her zest, vitality, and overpowering sexuality.

Although anyone could spot Claudia’s warped personality and her

overbearing

agenda for success, Gus, in his ludicrous inability to recognize his

own latent lust as infatuation, does not. Determined and willing to

throw everything aside, including the commendably devoted Honor, Gus

cannot understand Honor’s fury and hurt, Sophie’s fury and hurt, and

Claudia’s sudden fear of continuing the relationship — until the

damage is done.

Even as Honor has our sympathy and bravely considers her options,

we wonder if she has ever heard of women’s lib, or whether Gus has

ever read an article about male menopause, or whether Claudia had

ever considered analysis. We listen to these four variously paired

off motor-mouths sound off to each other in brief confrontational

meetings. Director Gerald Gutierrez handles the awkwardly fractured

prose by letting the actors step on each other’s lines and speak fast

enough so that we might forget how pretentiously inane the dialogue

is. Foxworth is fine as the fulsome ass. But only with a remarkable

actress like Alexander would any producer in his right mind consider

leaving the outback with this dog.

The actors also seem to have found a way to exit and to enter from

almost any place in designer Derek McLane’s barely furnished,

off-white

living room setting with a platform designed for stultifying

speechifying.

You may find yourself looking around for that red exit light long

before the play’s 90 minutes runs their course. H

— Simon Saltzman


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