The title of post was inspired by a number I heard in the musical Grey Gardens, which I saw Saturday night at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles.
The first act is engaging only as generic musical theater, as if book writer Doug Wright and director Michael Wilson were anxious to dispense with the preliminaries and get to the more meaty second act.
But I liked the first act since the younger Edie played by Sarah Hunt is living in grandeur. She is pretty and vivacious with none of the idiosyncrasies intimating her later, fractured self. Her most affecting song, “Daddy’s Girl,” is a desperate plea to convince her fiance, Joe Kennedy of her fidelity.
As moving as it is, the first act actually belongs to Rachel York as the elder Edith, a mother from hell who demands the center spotlight. She is even more impressive after intermission when she switches from Big Edith to Little Edie, taking over the role from Hunt as the now 56-year-old former debutante, holed up with her mother, played by Betty Buckley.
Gone are the Kennedys, the bright colors, beautiful people and sparkling champagne — replaced now with filth and decay.
In act two, we see the character’s charm and eccentricity as she models a bizarre ensemble with stockings over shorts and an apron that doubles as a cape — as if to say to hell to a “mean nasty Republican town.”
Thoughts like “It’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present. Do you know what I mean? It’s awfully difficult,” sound like something Tennessee Williams might have written but were actually lifted from the documentary.
Grey Gardens is a portrait of being without men in a man’s world, at a time where wealthy women were powerless, victims of chauvinism and self-delusion.
Big Edith only wanted her independence, a virtual impossibility for a woman with nothing more to offer than a vibrant falsetto. And her daughter Edie is someone who, due to poor parenting and a hint of mental illness, found all avenues of escape cut off.
Like most of us one time or another, they are trapped by an uncaring world and by their own shortcomings. The point is brought home in Edie’s heartbreaking lament that ends the show, “Another Winter in a Summer Town,” sung by a woman who will always be on the outside looking in. It’s a condition familiar to anyone who has ever felt defeated and estranged — rich, poor, loved and unloved, and it’s what gives Grey Gardens its emotional resonance.