The Waverly Gallery by Kenneth Lonergan: an analysis for production

Lonergan is best known for his first theatrical success This is Our Youth (1996). Instead of the fitful travails of ill-prepared young souls making their way into the world, The Waverly Gallery showcases, Gladys Green, lawyer, activist, gallery owner and victim of dementia, who is involuntarily on her way out. Daniel Green, a speechwriter for the Environmental Protection Agency (a job once held by Lonergan) is the playwright’s stand-in and a far more sympathetic Tom Wingfield, to a far more noble Amanda:
“Long monologues that used to be part of her regular repertoire dropped out of her conversation for good. I stopped going out to dinner with her because it got to be too much or an ordeal. She rang my doorbell so much I stopped answering it all the time.”
Make no mistake; this play is regularly very funny. The first twenty times we are introduced to Gladys’ deafness, incorrigibility, and forgetfulness we find them benign and hilarious. It is the last ten times that we see how those same traits exact sadness, worry, fear and grief on her family. The tipping point is an ill-fated gallery opening for an artist of dubious talent with plates of cheese and crackers for patrons who never arrive. Then decline becomes swift and inevitable. Lonergan pulls no punches. Daniel’s closing monologue is truthful, not nostalgic:
“But I never want to forget what happened to her. I want to remember every detail, because it really happened to her, and it seems like somebody should remember it. It’s not true that if you try hard enough you’ll prevail in the end. Because so many people try so hard, and they don’t prevail.”
The playwright has unquestionable provenance. Besides This is Our Youth and Waverly Gallery, Lonergan is known for his screenplays Analyze This (1999) and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000). He also contributed to the screenplay for Gangs of New York (2002). The Waverly Gallery has had well-reviewed productions in Williamstown, New York, LA, and Newton, Massachusetts.
Production requirements are all feasible for most theatrical companies. The cast is 5 (3m, 2F) with characters in their 20s, 30s ,50s and of course 80s. The tour-de-force role of Gladys needs an octogenarian of considerable talent and energy. The timing of multiple simultaneous conversations will take precise rehearsal and attention to execute. Gladys’ family (3) are New York Jews. There is no impediment (or necessity) to use other ethnicities in the additional roles. I have difficulty seeing how the multiple settings (the gallery and at least 2 apartments) are executed without detracting from the realistic simplicity of the play. Please hire a director and designer with more foresight than I currently possess. Waverly Gallery is traditionally divided into two acts. All props and costumes are contemporary. There is some vulgarity as frustration rises. Royalties are $75 per performance.
My recommendations are mixed. The playwright is an American. The setting is AGAIN regrettably New York. With America’s growing older population and the resulting crisis of care, the story will resonate with many audiences despite the locale. I can’t help but think that the inherent New York Jewish intellectual experience in which the play takes place is foreign to my audiences, and that there must be a work of similar subject and merit wherein my audiences might more readily see themselves.
http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/4859/waverly-gallery-the
Available for lending from The Princeton Public Library, Princeton, IL

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