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The Public Theater Presents "Plenty", Starring Rachel Weisz

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The Public Theater
Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director
Patrick Willingham, Executive Director

(Plenty Website)

Written by David Hare
Directed by David Leveaux

Liesel Allen Yeager, Pun Bandhu, Ken Barnett, Emily Bergl,
Dani de Waal, Mike Iveson, Byron Jennings, LeRoy McClain,
Tim Nicolai, Paul Niebanck, Ann Sanders, Julian Sands,
Corey Stoll, Benjamin Thys, Rachel Weisz

The Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
NY, NY 10003

Scenic Design: Mike Britton
Lighting Design: David Weiner
Costume Design: Jess Goldstein
Original Music / Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Hair & Wig Design: Leah J. Loukas
Voice and Speech Coach: Andrew Wade
Production Stage Manager: James Latus
Casting: Jonathan Thaler & Heidi Griffiths
Director of Communications: Candi Adams
Director of Marketing: Tom McCann
General Manager: Jeremy Adams
Production Exec.: Ruth E. Sternberg

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 29, 2016

Like a post-World War II era newsreel, David Leveaux’ production of David Hare’s 1978 play, Plenty, back at its original New York home, The Public Theater, presents a multitude of vignettes, all featuring Rachel Weisz in the multiple personas of Susan Traherne, a French Resistance courier in Nazi-occupied France, a mystery woman standing over a naked, near-death man with blood soaked limbs, a mistress then wife of a British attaché, a wannabe unwed mother having an arranged affair with a stranger from a Cockney locale, and a faux widow of a deceased diplomat, who arranges for rapid burial. Or is she not faux but widowed? I did not see the original play or the film with Meryl Streep in the role of Susan, and the fragmented vignettes were a study in abstraction and confusion of plot. In fact, toward the end of the endlessly meandering play, with Ms. Weisz whining and whimpering and wailing throughout, she goes off to bed with her husband, Raymond Brock (Corey Stoll) and wakes up with Codename Lazar (Ken Barnett), with no explicable time lapse or flashback. Making matters worse, the sound system, by David Van Tieghem, keeps Susan’s non-stop mutterings almost undecipherable, not that it seemed to matter.

Additional lead characters, within and without Susan’s relationships over the twenty post-WWII years enacted in the play, are Alice Park (a superb Emily Bergl), who smokes from a hookah and tries to keep Susan’s spirits alive, Mick (LeRoy McClain), the Cockney lover who fails to impregnate Susan, but falls in love with her all the same, M. Aung and Mme. Aung (Pun Bandhu and Ann Sanders), whom Susan meets at a cocktail event apparently meant to solve the Suez Crisis, or so it seemed, Leonard Darwin (Byron Jennings, who’s still the first rate sophisticate here that he was in the musical comedy She Loves Me), Brock’s boss, plus secondary cast. This production begs for an intimate stage, where the non-chronological scenes might make better sense and Susan’s ennui and distress might have stronger impact. On the cavernous stage at The Public she seems swallowed by Mike Britton’s vast, minimal sets, which, I must admit, are eye-catching. And, another plus, Jess Goldstein’s magnetic costumes are stunning period designs. The effect is that Ms. Weisz seemed prepared for a 1950 catwalk, with the additional help of Leah J. Loukas’ hair and wig design, rather than for drawing an audience into an almost three hour play.

Mr. Leveaux has taken a play about a woman’s wartime courage, followed by her emotional breakdown and torn relationships, then added an expressionistic styling to showcase a Picasso-like Dora Maar in theatrical cubism. Rachel Weisz, Corey Stoll, Emily Bergl, LeRoy McClain, and Byron Jennings deserve a better conceived production for this main stage theater with a sense of directorial communication. So many period plays produced of late include projections of historical import and scenic dates, even a narrator, if necessary, think of Bright Star that traveled through time with stage cues for eras. Plus, Susan Traherne was depicted as an internalized, imploding creature, rather than a survivor with war trauma. Her psychic center was invisible. But, at least we had the lush costumes, tabula rasa sets, and Mr. Van Tieghem’s musical interludes. I look forward to seeing Ms. Weisz, Mr. Stoll, Ms. Bergl, Mr. McClain, and Mr. Jennings on future stages, soon. For the record, Mr. Leveaux has been favorably reviewed on these pages for directing Nine (2003), Fiddler on the Roof (2005), The Glass Menagerie (2005), and Arcadia (2011).

Company members of "Plenty"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Rachel Weisz and LeRoy McClain in "Plenty"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Corey Stoll and Rachel Weisz in "Plenty"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

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