Barry McNabb, Bob Merrill, Charlotte Moore, Cliff Bemis, Danielle Ferland, Eugene O'Neill, father and daughters, George Abbott, Irish Repertory Theatre, Jame Morgan, Margaret Loesser Robinson, Patrick Cummings, prostitution, the sea
There is a difference, I suppose, between reviving a classic and uncovering a curio. There is the tendency to assume that our fairly static canon obscures unrecognized gems, and while there are occasions where the shade of history has shrouded a Cullinan Diamond, for the most part forgotten works range from brown coal to rose quartz. The New Girl, Bob Merrill and George Abbott’s 1957 adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s 1921 tragicomedy Anna Christie, is of the semi-precious variety.
Under the direction of Charlotte Moore, it is not entirely without charm; Margaret Losser Robinson as Anna and Danielle Ferland as Marthy are tremendous. Their male co-stars, however, cannot equal their fire. They are either old, ineffectual, and avuncular (a capable Cliff Bemis as Anna’s sweet lush of a father and sea-barge captain, Chris Christopherson) or young, handsome, and flaccid (Patrick Cummings straining his voice and our patience as Anna’s beloved sailor Matt). Because of the play’s casting, the men seem almost unnecessary were it not for the bothersome necessities of plot. Mr. Bemis does the far better job at commanding the stage, but his character whistles ditties. And rather than blowing flames, Mr. Cummings’s Matt simpers; his immaculate locks do not make up for an absence of stage presence and a what would seem an essential ability to croon.