by Meredith Ganzman
Her name is Lucy Barton. That’s who you’ll meet in the Manhattan Theatre Club’s US premiere of My Name is Lucy Barton, which stars the award-winning powerhouse, Laura Linney. The solo performance is a testament to Linney’s incredibly skilled craft and the writer’s questionable choice of subjects.
The award-winning screen and stage great Linney takes on the evocative role of Lucy. This is her first return to the boards since her Tony Award-nominated performance in the 2017 revival of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes. More recently she’s been seen in the Netflix series Ozark.
In My Name is Lucy Barton, Laura plays the title character, who’s in the hospital after surgery to have her appendix removed. She wakes up to find her estranged mother, who refers to her as Wizzle, also surprisingly in her room. The two spend a few days reconnecting after not seeing each other in years. During their visit, Lucy tries to work through her difficult upbringing, piecing together the different stories of her life and coming to better accept her family.
What’s impressive is how Laura Linney seems to take on the solo show effortlessly. Audiences will understand why Linney has four Emmy awards and two Golden Globes. What may come as a shock is that Linney has only been nominated for three Academy Awards and four Tony Awards.
What’s less gripping is the play’s overstuffed and weighty writing, which makes the 90 minute production feel significantly longer. In the play Lucy says of coming to terms with the defining moments in her life, “We only have one story, just one, and we have to find the ways to tell it. This is my story. And yet it could be the story of many.”
Yet despite the show’s supposed universality, audiences may find themselves questioning the point of the story and wondering if the author might have chosen a different one to tell. This show is also produced in association with Penguin Random House Audio. The piece would play much better in this medium than it does on stage.
Rona Munro (The James Trilogy) adapted the bestselling novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge) for stage with director Richard Eyre at the helm (The Crucible, Notes On a Scandal). This production transferred from the London Theatre Company. The creative team includes Bob Crowley (scenic & costume design), Peter Mumford (lighting design), John Leonard (sound design) and Luke Halls (video design).
Photos: Matthew Murphy
My Name is Lucy Barton is playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street www.manhattantheatreclub.com
Running time is 1 hour, 30 minutes, with no intermission