Review: ‘The Parisian Woman’ at Hudson Theater

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Drawing room comedy is back for the moment, thanks to Beau Willimon’s The Parisian Woman. Genuine high wattage star Uma Thurman is riding in this vehicle which deals with the powerful people in present-day Washington, whom we are told are the only sort worth having as friends. Pam McKinnon has staged the play with fluidity, and Thurman in particular moves about the beautiful space with command and great grace. She belongs in this elegant environment, and this play deals with how she manages to assure her place in it.

Phillipa Soo and Uma Thurman in The Parisian Woman. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

It’s worrisome that it reflects the truth at least as we know it – about much of our current world in which the truth is elusive and the stakes are high. To make certain we don’t miss the point that it’s all happening now, Willimon has turned to his earlier version of the play (circa 2013) and moved it up to Trump time by inserting, every now and then, a quote from our president’s tweets. They get the laughs, but they seem out of place, belonging more in a sketch on Saturday Night Live.

The play is a free adaptation of the 19th Century La Parisienne by Henry Becque. Thurman is playing “Chloe,” a socialite who is coming to terms with her marriage, her past, her uncertain future, and her need to be useful. She has a lover, and in due course, she is introduced to an influential matron with important social and political connections. The play gives us glimpses of her relations with her husband, lover, important lady friend, and lady friend’s young and ambitious daughter who will figure importantly in her plan to help her husband win the appointment to an important post – one from which he might just be able to accomplish some real good. The lighthearted banter that serves the first half of this 80-minute play is darkened somewhat as the gears of the plot kick in at a pivotal turn when the stakes in Chloe’s life rise, and she makes her move to see that all works out well for her and her husband.

Thurman knows her way around a funny line, and her Chloe is easy to like and difficult to read. As her paramour Peter, Marton Csokas is ardent, alive, and perfectly happy to have an irresponsible love affair, while Josh Lucas is charming and affable as a husband who seems perfectly content in an open marriage. A meeting with an influential social icon gives Chloe the open door she needs to help her husband win an important appointment. Blair Brown is solid and real as the woman not all of us would want to know. The final piece in the puzzle is Rebecca, the ambitious and attractive young woman who, like Chloe, knows what she wants and how to get it.

Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

The Parisian Woman plays through March 11, 2018, at Hudson Theater–141 West 44th Street in New York City, NY. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (855) 801-5876 or online.

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Richard Seff
RICHARD SEFF has been working in theatre since he made his acting debut in support of Claude Rains in the prize winning DARKNESS AT NOON, and he agreed to tour the next season in support of Edward G. Robinson, which took him across the nation and back for nine months. When it was over and he was immediately offered another national tour with THE SHRIKE with Van Heflin, he decided to explore other areas, and he spent the next 22 years representing artists in the theatre as an agent, where he worked at Liebling-Wood, MCA, eventually a partnership of his own called Hesseltine-Bookman and Seff, where he discovered and developed young talents like Chita Rivera, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Ron Field, Linda Lavin, Nancy Dussault and many others. He ultimately sold his interest to ICM. When he completed his contractual obligation to that international agency, he returned to his first love, acting and writing for the theatre. In that phase of his long and varied life, he wrote a comedy (PARIS IS OUT!) which brightened the 1970 season on Broadway for 107 performances. He became a successful supporting player in film, tv and onstage, and ultimately wrote a book about his journey, SUPPORTING PLAYER: MY LIFE UPON THE WICKED STAGE, still popular with older theatre lovers and youngsters who may not yet know exactly where they will most sensibly and profitably fit into the world of show business. The book chronicles a life of joyous work working in a favored profession in many areas, including leading roles in the regional theatres in his work in Lanford Wilson's ANGELS FALL. His last stage role was in THE COUNTESS in which he played Mr. Ruskin for 9 months off Broadway. Five seasons ago Joel Markowitz suggested he join him at DCTheatreScene. His accurate and readable reviews of the New York Scene led, when the time was right, for his joining DCMetroTheaterArts to continue bringing news of the Big Apple's productions just to keep you posted. He is delighted to be able to join DCMTA and work with Joel and hopes that you like what he has to say.