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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "The Madrid" at Manhattan Theatre Club, City Center Stage I
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "The Madrid" at Manhattan Theatre Club, City Center Stage I

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Manhattan Theatre Club
The Madrid
(The Madrid Website)

By Liz Flahive
Directed by Leigh Silverman

Manhattan Theatre Club
City Center Stage I
West 55th Street, Btw. 6th and 7th Avenues

Artistic Director, Lynne Meadow
Executive Producer, Barry Grove

Seth Clayton, John Ellison Conlee, Edie Falco,
Darren Goldstein, Brooke Ashley Laine, Heidi Schreck,
Frances Sternhagen, Phoebe Strole

Scenic Design: David Zinn
Costume Design: Emily Rebholz
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Sound Design: Jill BC Du Boff
Original Music: Tom Kitt
Casting: Caparelliotis Casting
Production Stage Manager: Martha Donaldson
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Artistic Producer: Mandy Greenfield
Director of Artistic Development: Jerry Patch
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production Manager: Joshua Helman
Artistic Line Producer: Lisa McNulty
Director of Casting: Nancy Piccione
General Manager, The Madrid: Lindsey Sag

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 5, 2013

Three people in the rows nearby snored or drooped heads during this too-long, soporific play by Liz Flahive at Manhattan Theatre Club. It’s not enough these days to snag a star, like Edie Falco, for a play to draw audiences. There have to be at least a few mesmerizing moments. Unfortunately, in The Madrid, there was hardly even a fascinating moment, hardly one. Edie Falco plays Martha, the blank-staring, one-dimensional kindergarten teacher, like a ghost intruding into her own life. She sits at her experience chart with a classroom child (Brooke Ashley Laine), then offers the child her teacher’s seat. Soon Martha has fled into broad daylight, abandoning her job and family Martha’s husband John (John Ellison Conlee) and daughter Sarah (Phoebe Strole) are incredibly in a bubble, not seeming to have detectives or police search for Martha, not knowing Martha had secret savings that served to rent a hideaway flat in a broken down building, called The Madrid.

Beyond the immediate family, Martha and John’s neighbors, Danny (Darren Goldstein), his wife Becca (Heidi Schreck), and their son Dylan (Seth Clayton), are equally in a state of transcending their own circle, with Danny making a very uncomfortable play for 20-ish Sarah, instead of gathering a posse to search for Martha. According to Becca, Danny makes her depressed, because he “likes to talk to girls” too much. Dylan, afflicted with syndromes from growth enhancement drugs, is awkward at best and robotic at worst, a metaphor for this play. The one character, in addition to Sarah, that shows spark and life, is Rose, Martha’s mother (Frances Sternhagen), who shows little distress at her daughter’s disappearance, although dialogue attests to Rose’s car accident being wound up in an attempt to lure Martha home. Ms. Sternhagen, an actor who always mesmerizes with expertise, was fascinating walking through a door or drooping in a wheelchair. Ms. Strole, as Sarah, finds her mother in The Madrid and sets up a surreptitious series of “dates” to reminisce, unbeknownst to John. Yet, in this play, revelations that would trigger hysteria in some plays, even intense confrontations, even dynamic dialogue, here triggers little more than a shrug and nap-inducing remarks.

Leigh Silverman has directed, unfortunately, for what may have worked on a small screen, such as close-ups to gestures and facial tics, but not for what works in theater. That is, The Madrid may have been, or still could be, a vehicle for HBO or such, with Ms. Falco such a highly experienced and successful television actress. But, at City Center Stage I, this play was agonizing, with miles of emotional distance between stage and audience. Even David Zinn’s scenic design, with an Act II furniture sale of Martha and John’s home furnishings, presumably so he could move on, took on the motif of peeking into a Salvation Army store window, but with less to draw the eye. In fact, it’s in just that scenic motif when Martha returns home and curls up in bed with her daughter, who’s fast asleep. This was art imitating life, as the audience yawned.

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