Theater Review: Cotuit's 'Grey Gardens' Boasts Talented Cast, Crew

Bonnie Fairbanks as Little Edie Beale in the Cotuit Center for the Art's current production of ALAN TRUGMAN - Bonnie Fairbanks as Little Edie Beale in the Cotuit Center for the Art's current production of "Grey Gardens," which documents a mother-daughter relationship gone wrong.

Despite the script leaving something to be desired, the cast and crew of “Grey Gardens” at the Cotuit Center for the Arts have put together a lovely production of the 2006 musical based on the 1975 documentary.

Directed by David McCarty, the cast does a wonderful job portraying the Beale women as they succumb to squalor and destitution in their manor in the Hamptons. The first act portrays the women, Edith Bouvier Beale (Bonnie Fairbanks) and “Little” Edie Beale (Jamie Lynne Stuart) in more prosperous times, with Little Edie about to celebrate her engagement to Joseph Kennedy Jr. (Danny Price).

As Edith begins to realize that she will be left alone in her manor with her daughter about to leave the nest, she seems to devise a plan to ruin her daughter’s engagement and keep her at home. Ms. Fairbanks is able to convey the wheels turning without even saying a word, and her delivery of the damaging lines is perfection. Mr. Price aptly captures the spirit of the injured fiancé, while Ms. Stuart does beautiful work as a young woman trying to put her scandalous past behind her.

When the second act opens, 30 years have passed and the once elegant mansion has fallen into a state of severe disrepair. Empty cat food cans have piled high on the furniture, the walls are stained, and neighborhood boy Jerry (also Mr. Price) has taken it upon himself to bring by a product to take care of the flea infestation.

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Big Edie (now played by Diane Quaid) and Little Edie (now played by Ms. Fairbanks) still live in the home, which has become a symbol of dying hope and dashed dreams. Little Edie has slowly dissolved into a state of her own disrepair. It can be difficult to watch her desperately cling to the remnants of dreams of becoming a star as well as the emotional damage caused by both of her parents. Ms. Quaid does a wonderful job of portraying the aging mother who has no shame in throwing around a guilt trip.

The show does end on a warm note and is dotted with moments of humor. The cast of nine is small for a musical production, but each cast member is capable of holding their own. All of the vocal performances were on point and fun to watch.

Music director Henry Buck (who also plays the quick-to-quip Grey Gardens pianist George Gould Strong) has put together a great orchestra that plays seamlessly with the production and provides beautiful accompaniment to the vocals.

The set is designed to show the upstairs, downstairs, and exterior of the mansion. This adds incredible depth and is impressive work in and of itself. The use of lighting to punctuate the end of musical numbers was well done and did a great job of focusing attention where attention was deserved as well as creating the appropriate mood for the scene setting.

The overall script was, in all fairness, not one of my favorites. There was too little plot progression in act two and too many musical numbers for my taste. However, the cast was still able to hold my attention and they truly put together a great performance. The audience was captivated by the production and it is a show that is certainly worth an evening out.

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