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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
to bring importance or class to this piece of predictable and
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
even as it credits her irritating, repetitive, staccato dialogue for
merely facetiously hono(u)ring its model. A higher court will
quickly and mercifully send this impoverished drama to its just
[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
among cretins. The elegant, radiant, and valiant Alexander plays
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
for Honor to loom in her husband’s ever-widening shadow, as well as
linger about for Sophie (Enid Graham), their intelligent,
Is there now, after 32 years of togetherness, anything deeper or more
bonding than financial security in their staid and unexciting
Is Honor, gray-haired, wearing her roomy blue pantsuit with
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
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,
living room setting with a platform designed for stultifying
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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