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Les Parents Terribles

Parents were really taking it on the chin last week, at least on New York stages. They even got their own play, whose title leads this column, though on the marquee of the Barrymore Theater it says “Indiscretions.” Inside, Jean Cocteau’s horrible folks, Yvonne and George (played by Kathleen Turner and Roger Rees) were doing everything they could to screw up (or perhaps just screw) son Michael (played by Jude Law).

But Yvonne and George have plenty of company. The bad parents to end all bad parents are, of course, on view at the Belasco, where Hamlet’s mother Gertrude is making whoopie with uncle Claudius practically before the dirt has settled on the old man’s grave. (They are played by Ralph Fiennes, Francesca Annis and James Laurenson, respectively, in the Almeida Theater import.) Then at the Roundabout there’s mama Natalya, who, bored near the end of a month in the country (and who wouldn’t be?), falls for the tutor her daughter’s also flipped over (they’re Helen Mirren, Kathryn Erbe and Alessandro Nivola). (And aren’t the stages lousy with tutors these days? But that’s another column.)

Things looked pretty downbeat on the Martin Beck homefront at “My Thing of Love,” which chronicles the wreck of a family when parents played by Laurie Metcalf and Tom Irwin can’t work things out; more about them next week. And let’s not forget Donny in “The Cryptogram,” so frozen in the wake of her husband’s abandonment that she can’t reach out to her shell-shocked son (Felicity Kendall and Shelton Dane). Not a lotta laughs there. In fact, despite a number of glowing reviews, and almost-a-Pulitzer, “The Cryptogram” itself is the subject of much abuse from theater folks signing on to Playbill’s new online service. Oh, well. Some spring.

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