by Harvey Perr
published April 3, 2009
now playing on Broadway at the Schoenfeld Theater
through July 5
People have been asking why Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen would return to Broadway in a play as bad as Michael Jacobs’ Impressionism. It might make more sense to ask ourselves why
we expect the actors we admire to be arbiters of taste and judgment. It would be kinder to just say that they are hardly the only actors to
make such a grave error and hope that, next time out, they appear in plays that make better use of their talents.
Or, one might ask what it is that aroused their interest. After all, this play, on the surface, asks us to consider such weighty
subjects as art vs. reality, art as a cover-up for hidden emotions, art as a conduit to memory. Of course, that wouldn’t explain why they
couldn’t see the mine field of booby traps that such subjects open themselves to. And this one gives way to all of them.
Better yet, why not ask why director Jack O’Brien would follow up his epic The Coast
of Utopia with such mindless and incoherent froth. And why would one of our most exciting
designers, Scott Pask, want to devote his energies to blow-ups of paintings and photographs that don’t even belong in the same space? Or
why such fine actors as Marsha Mason and Andre de Shields would take such thankless parts which no amount of expertise can earn them
And maybe we should ask why nobody asked Michael Jacobs how the central character can run a gallery on, presumably, the upper East
Side, with no intention of selling the art on display? How does she pay the rent, for example? Of course, when one is dealing with such
weighty subjects as art vs. [whatever], who cares about logic?
Impressionism is the one
play this season that should be avoided at all costs. I can’t remember the last time I saw a play so relentlessly unrewarding on any stage,
let alone on Broadway. And even though Ms. Allen and Mr. Irons give very few clues to the size of their talents, I still look forward to
seeing them again one day. If nothing else, they are nice to look at in Catherine Zuber’s pretty costumes.
harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com