Colder Than Here

  • Review by:
    Polly Wittenberg

    Written by: Laura Wade
    Directed by: Abigail Morris
    Cast: Judith Light, Brian Murray, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe.
    Synopsis: Faced with the news of her impending demise, Myra is trying for once to be the model home-maker, wife, and mother, turning her household topsy-turvy as she sets her sights on a few domestic tasks to complete before she leaves...like arranging every last detail of her own funeral and relentlessly trying to force her fractured family to communicate with each other. Myra, her mild-mannered husband and quirky daughters set off on a whirlwind journey of surprise, exasperation, and discovery just as Myra's own lifetime passage is winding down to its final destination.

     

    I've been reading a review of Joan Didion�s new book, The Year of Magical Thinking, in which she describes in detail the sudden death of her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, of a massive heart attack. Ms. Didion writes: �Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.�

    Then I went to see Laura Wade�s Colder Than Here, the MCC production now playing at the Lucille Lortel. It is set in the comfortable English town of Leamington Spa where Myra, wife of a building surveyor and mother of two, is slowly dying of cancer. Very slowly. The plot consisted of a series of vignettes from the family�s life over a trying six-month period. Each is supposed to be warm or touching or funny or sad so the audience can see how the family comes together in the face of tragedy. The themes include the search for a burial site, the preferred type of coffin, the sex lives of the various family members and the non-working boiler of the family manse.

    Overall, what happens is entirely predictable. And, as directed by Abigail Morris, the pacing does drag on. And on. The show was advertised to last 90 minutes. Actually, it ran 15 minutes longer. The staging is full of pregnant pauses and vacant stares. If used sparingly, these devices can be effective. Here, they are just boring.

    Which is too bad because Colder Than Here has an attractive and talented cast. Judith Light, looking frail and wan in an ill-fitting brown wig, is Myra. Brian Murray is her bluff husband. Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe are her settled and her rebel daughters, respectively. And the production design by Brian H. Kim, features the very clever use of projections.

    Next time I want to understand the dramatic effect of the death of a loved one, I think it will be more revealing to spend time with Ms. Didion�s book.

     

     

    What the critics had to say.....

    CHARLES ISHERWOOD of the NEW YORK TIMES says �Skillful but largely unsurprising play.�
    FRANK SCHECK of THE NEW YORK POST says " 'Colder Than Here' is too frigid by far."
    CHARLOTTE STOUDT of the VILLAGE VOICE says "A play about the perils of being too tidy about decomposition stays too polite to ever really come alive."
    MICHAEL SOMMERS of STAR-LEDGER says "Perhaps if it were opened up into one of those Lifetime Channel movies the story would not appear as mechanical as it unfortunately does here"
    JACQUES LE SOURD of the Journal News says "What makes it almost worth seeing is the presence of veteran actor Brian Murray."
    PETER SANTILLI of ASSOCIATED PRESS says "The action drags considerably at times, and some metaphors become tiresomely repetitive. Still, the audience's attention is held by a script that is both tender and unabashedly truthful. "
    LARRY WORTH of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER says "Is as funny as it is moving, as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. "

    External links to full reviews from newspapers

    New York Times
    New York Post
    Village Voice
    Journal News
    Associated Press
    Hollywood Reporter