After a 20-year absence triple-Tony winner Glenn Close returned to the Broadway in a revival of Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, A Delicate Balance, a production that elicited an uneven response from critics who found it both blistering and boring. Close, 67 plays matriarch Agnes opposite Tony winner John Lithgow, 69 (The Changing Room and Sweet Smell of Success) who plays her husband in the play that premiered on the Broadway in 1966 and opened on Thursday night for a limited run at the John Golden Theater.
“Albee peels the lid off the upper crust,’ said The New York Daily News while the Hollywood Reporter described it as a ‘blistering production.”
“Whether audiences are encountering A Delicate Balance for the first time or for a reappraisal, watching the six supremely accomplished actors in this cast bite into their roles is thrilling,” it added. But the New York Post found the production “equal parts boozy and boring” and said even a “starry cast can’t lift Albee revival out of its ho-hum mood.” Close last appeared on Broadway in the musical Sunset Boulevard, winning a Tony in 1995 for her portrayal of the aging actress, Norma Desmond. She also picked up Tony awards for Death and the Maiden in 1992 and The Real Thing in 1984.
She is icy as the aristocratic Agnes, an empty nester with Lithgow, who entertains her alcoholic sister, played by Scottish, Tony winning actress, Lindsay Duncan, 64. During a long weekend, the couple’s well-ordered, controlled world is disturbed when they must deal with the return of their spoiled daughter, played by Martha Plimpton, after the breakup of her fourth marriage, and the arrival of their best friends (Clare Higgins and Bob Balaban), who are seeking refuge from an unknown threat. According to the Hollywood Reporter, it is an explosive combination that Albee deals with brilliantly.
“He maps out a picture of smug, upper middle-class complacency, and then mercilessly confronts his characters with the depths of their denial, in action that unfolds from Friday night through Sunday morning,” it added. While the New York Times said Close, Lithgow, Duncan and Plimpton deliver their lines with clarity, they seemed distant.
“As you would expect of these highly accomplished, multi-award-winning cast members, none of them are bad. But they’re giving us the play, instead of living it,” said the New York Times.