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Lincoln Center Theater At the Mitzi E. Newhouse Presents "The Grand Manner"

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Lincoln Center Theater
At the Mitzi E. Newhouse
Under the Direction of Andre Bishop and Bernard Gersten

The Grand Manner
(The Grand Manner Website)
By A.R. Gurney

Kate Burton, Boyd Gaines
Bobby Steggert, Brenda Wehle

Directed by Mark Lamos
Sets: John Arnone
Costumes: Ann Hould-Ward
Lighting: Russell H. Champa
Original Music and Sound: John Gromada
Stage Manager: M.A. Howard
Casting: Daniel Swee
Director of Development: Hattie K. Jutagir
Director of Marketing: Linda Mason Ross
General Press Agent: Philip Rinaldi
General Manager: Adam Siegel
Production Manager: Jeff Hamlin

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 8, 2010

I knew little about Katherine Cornell before seeing tonight's very enjoyable cast of four in a Broadway Green Room, 1948, after Cornell's performance as Cleopatra, for which she won a Tony. Cornell (Kate Burton) has agreed to a rare meeting with a fan from her hometown, Buffalo, even though her loyal assistant, Gertrude Macy (Brenda Wehle), tries to dissuade young Pete (Bobby Steggert) from waiting. Cornell's husband/director/co-producer, Guthrie McClintic (Boyd Gaines), is first seen in A. R. Gurney's memory segment, then soon in a central role. The memory segment is followed by the actual play, with Pete portraying the playwright, in his narrative of what might have been a grander, Green Room experience. John Arnone has designed an elegant set, much more elaborate than any Green Room today, with fine furnishings and carpet, befitting the stature of Ms. Cornell's sophisticated trio. Mr. Gurney draws out his imaginative re-take of this fateful day, taking full advantage of the fact that Ms. Macy was known to be Ms. Cornell's actual lover, and Mr. McClintic was known to be gay. Theirs was a marriage made not only for theatrical success, but also for endearing friendship and social advantage.

Pete, a student in a New England boarding school, is mesmerized and thrilled, especially when Ms. Cornell recites Cleopatra's death scene, while slung out on a couch. Mr. Steggert, reviewed in this magazine for his memorable role in Ragtime, is intrinsically charismatic, enthusiastic, unassuming, and youthful. When he addresses the audience before his fantasy re-take, you're immediately drawn in. When he returns to close the show, he's radiant, as if truly inspired and enlightened. Ms. Burton plays the role with confidence and comfort, a Katherine Cornell who's seasoned and satisfied. I hoped for more in her excerpt from Antony and Cleopatra, but, after all, this was the Green Room, and she'd already been Cleopatra earlier in the evening. Both Ms. Wehle and Mr. Gaines, as Ms. Macy and Mr. McClintic, made the most of their roles, with sexually charged entendres and jealous, lusty glances. Mark Lamos directed this duo, as if to leave no implied comment vague.

Ann-Hould Ward's costumes are exceptionally stylized, with Ms. Burton's Cleopatra costume over-the top, Mr. Gaines' black tie tux elegant and well fitted, and Ms. Wehle's boxy suit understated. Mr. Steggert, in fashionable, natty coat and scarf, looked perfectly preppy. John Gromada's warm music and sound and Russell H. Champa's evocative lighting added elegance to a play about one elegant lady of the theatre.

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at