Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review, Patti Cohenour, R. Hamilton Wright, Suzy Hunt, Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review Seattle Washington WA.Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review, Patti Cohenour, R. Hamilton Wright, Suzy Hunt, Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review Seattle Washington WA.Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review, Patti Cohenour, R. Hamilton Wright, Suzy Hunt, Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review Seattle Washington WA.

Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review

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Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre
by Peggy Doman

Patti Cohenour the center of attention - Photo: Mark Kitaoka.

Allen Fitzpatrick - Photo: Mark Kitaoka.Grey Gardens is a musical based on a 1975 documentary by Albert and David Maysles. The focus of the cult documentary is the mother and daughter team, both socialites and both named Edith Beale. The elder is called Big Edie and her daughter is Little Edie. Big Edie is the daughter of “Major”: J. V. Bouvier, the brother of Black Jack Bouvier, Jackie and Lee Bouvier’s father.

The documentary visited the Beale women at Grey Gardens, a 28-room home in fashionable East Hampton, Long Island. The former mansion has sunk into decrepitude and decay, inhabited by the Edies, numerous cats, fleas, raccoons, and rooms of garbage.

Jackie and her younger sister Lee were frequent visitors to the Beale home and in fact show up in the production as 12 and 8 year olds, in 1941, 32 years before the documentary was set. There is a party that evening to celebrate the engagement of Little Edie to Joe Kennedy, the heir apparent and presidential hopeful of Joe and Rose Kennedy, also the parents of John F. Kennedy.

Edith, as Little Edie is called in this earlier time period, is anxious to get away from Grey Gardens and her mother. Apparently, her mother has broken Edith’s previous engagements with her bohemian behavior and her unsavory gossip about her daughter. The same happens this evening when she discusses Edith with Joe Kennedy, Junior, before his parents and the other guests arrive.

Jessica Skerritt and Patti Cohenour - Photo: Mark Kitaoka.Big Edie is eccentric, to say the least. She really wants to be a professional singer and keeps a gay composer at her home to write songs for her and to arrange her concerts and performances. She has raised Edith to be her partner in her entertainments, singing and dancing duets that the daughter has obviously outgrown.

Big Edie doesn’t want Edith to marry and leave her alone. Estranged from Edith’s father, she lives in her own world. Her husband lives in New York and divorces her in Mexico and marries his mistress. Major Bouvier becomes disgusted with her behavior, her violation of the conventional rules of socialite behavior, and reduces her allowance to a pittance, barely enough to provide groceries, certainly not enough to maintain the house and grounds.

When her engagement is ruined, Edith leaves for New York to pursue her career goals; however, she returns a few years later to take care of her mother. The actors are marvelous. In the first act, the daughter Edith is played by Jessica Skerritt and her mother is portrayed by Patti Cohenour. They scream and rage at each other in song as well as dialogue, Edith to get her freedom and Big Edie to maintain her control over Edith.

Patti Cohenour - Photo: Mark Kitaoka.In the second act, Big Edie is portrayed by Suzy Hunt and Little Edie is played by Patti Cohenour. They are still shouting and hurling scurrilous remarks at each other. Little Edie has lost her hair so she wears elaborately wrapped scarves and dresses in a skewed version of fashionable garb. She’s apparently made her clothes out of discarded items: an old sweater, another long jacket as a wrap or shawl with the strange hem hanging down , and doesn’t seem to be mindful of the fact that her pettie pants and nylons hang below her skirt. I’m not sure of the spelling, but pettie pants were worn under ski or palazzo pants or the faddish jump suits of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Pattie Cohenour is a force of nature. She completely inhabited the bodies and spirits of both Edies. Her Little Edie in the second act was a twisted, tormented soul, lost in her own furies and torments. She twists her body and hunches over as if she’s some shore bird that skitters along the surf’s edge. Her body is a living example of her twisted soul.

I must admit that I did not enjoy the music. The actors seemed to be singing very stylized songs and, in the case of Little Edie, singing in rage in songs that sounded off key to me. I also didn’t enjoy the songs themselves; it seemed to be more a recitative than a melody. This co-production of the 5th Avenue Musical Theatre and ACT Theatre is playing at ACT and runs until May 26. Call the box office at 888-5th-4TIX at the 5th Avenue or, call ACT’s box office at 206-292-7676 for information and tickets.



Suzy Hunt and Patti Cohenour - Photo: Mark Kitaoka.

Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review, Patti Cohenour, R. Hamilton Wright, Suzy Hunt, Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review Seattle Washington WA.

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Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review, Patti Cohenour, R. Hamilton Wright, Suzy Hunt, Grey Gardens - 5th Avenue and ACT Theatre Play Review Seattle Washington WA.