Summer Theater Review: ‘Off the Main Road’ with Kyra Sedgwick

Kyra Sedgwick, Estelle Parsons, Mary Wiseman, Aaron Costa Ganis, Jeremy Davidson, Howard W. Overshown, Daniel Sharman, Becky Ann Baker, Joseph Huffman, Jonothan Lyons, Sarah Chalfie.

Faye Garrit is an immediately recognizable William Inge woman: anxious, unmoored and yearning for something more, whether it be finding a purpose in her superficial life or just making it with a hot stud who comes knocking. Emmy-winner Kyra Sedgwick (TV’s “The Closer”) plays all the requisite notes of this desperate, fierce but also unfocused character in “Off the Main Road,” the previously-unproduced Inge play that is receiving its premiere as the season opener at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Though the play has moments of interest, some tender and funny scenes and flashes of insight into three generations of women in a changing mid-century America, it’s a sudsy, second-shelf melodrama.

Mandy Greenfield, the new artistic director at the summer theater in the Massachusetts Berkshires — and formerly the artistic producer of the Manhattan Theater Club — admirably brings a commitment to new work as well as to established American writers to her new digs, and here she gets a two-fer with a play from the early-to-mid ’60s whose story was the basis of a 1966 television film starring Anne Bancroft.

Director Evan Cabnet tries to find grace notes amid the characters’ mood swings and often arch, if not clunky, dialogue as they grapple with careening subjects such as the changes modern women face, the pressures of celebrity, closeted homosexuality, psychoanalysis, faith and, ominously, suicide. (Inge killed himself in 1973 at the age of 60.)

Popular on Variety

Faye, a St. Louis socialite, has fled her abusive, handsome second husband Manny (Jeremy Davidson), an alcoholic ex-baseball star. She escapes to an off-season resort cabin outside the city, assisted by her 17-year-old daughter Julia (Mary Wiseman), who spent most of her life in a Catholic boarding school.

Shortly Faye’s formidable mother arrives (Estelle Parsons, bringing much needed, though stereotypical, humor to the play), the first of many visitors to the well-traveled cabin. Her mother is an imperious woman of privilege who criticizes and coddles her daughter while Faye, both self-aware and oblivious, spends much of the play simply at loose ends.

When Manny arrives contrite, Faye finds she has deep feelings for him — some of them driven by her libido — so when local stud Gino (Aaron Costa Ganis) later makes his way into her cabin, Faye succumbs in an awkward scene of purple passion. “What rapture!” she says as she drops her nominal resistance.

Faye isn’t the only one coming to terms with her sexuality. Julia is discovering first love and sex with local boy Victor (Daniel Sharman). Meanwhile, a closeted gay friend of Faye’s, Jimmy (Howard W. Overshown), drops by so they can have an intimate chat about life, love and sex, but it’s merely a rest stop off the main narrative road.

Manny soon returns in a jealous murderous rage, Julia heads to the convent and Faye finally makes a decision about her own life. But her changes of heart and mind are thinly drawn, abruptly realized and ultimately unsatisfying, like much of the play.

The cast infuses the work with nuances that try to offer shading in Inge’s broad strokes. Sedgwick commands the stage with the brittle energy of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Wiseman does a fine job as the spiritual daughter in search of a dependable love, and Overshown and Sharmon have some tender and sad moments, too.

But it’s little respite for what, in the end, is a long tiring journey of a play.

Summer Theater Review: 'Off the Main Road' with Kyra Sedgwick

Williamstown Theater Festival; '62 Center for Theater & Dance at Williams College, Williamstown, Mass.; 511 seats; $65. Opened, reviewed July 2, 2015. Runs through July 19. Running time: 2 HOURS, 5 MIN.

Production: A Williamstown Theater Festival presentation of a play in two acts by William Inge.

Creative: Directed by Evan Cabnet. Set, Takeshi Kata; costumes, Paloma Young; lighting, Ben Stanton; sound, Ben Truppin-Brown; director of production, Eric Nottke; production stage manager, Brandon Kahn.

Cast: Kyra Sedgwick, Estelle Parsons, Mary Wiseman, Aaron Costa Ganis, Jeremy Davidson, Howard W. Overshown, Daniel Sharman, Becky Ann Baker, Joseph Huffman, Jonothan Lyons, Sarah Chalfie.

More Legit

  • Protesters demonstrate at the Broadway opening

    'West Side Story' Broadway Opening Night Sparks Protests

    Roughly 100 protestors gathered outside the Broadway premiere of “West Side Story” on Thursday night, carrying placards and chanting in unison to demand the removal of cast member Amar Ramasar. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ramasar has got to go,” they cried while holding signs that read “Keep predators off the stage,” “Sexual predators shouldn’t get [...]

  • West Side Story review

    'West Side Story': Theater Review

    Whittled down to one hour and forty-five minutes, “West Side Story” – with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by Jerome Robbins — has grown exceedingly dark and mislaid some of its moving parts in the new Broadway revival from edgy Belgian director Ivo Van Hove. (Can [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Closing in March After Box Office Struggles

    “The Inheritance,” a sprawling and ambitious epic that grappled with the legacy of the AIDS epidemic, will close on March 15. The two-part play has struggled mightily at the box office despite receiving strong reviews. Last week, it grossed $345,984, or 52% of its capacity, a dispiriting number for a show that was reported to [...]

  • MCC theater presents 'Alice By Heart'

    Steven Sater on Adapting 'Alice by Heart' From a Musical to a Book

    When producers approached lyricist Steven Sater (“Spring Awakening”) to adapt Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” into a musical, his initial reaction was to recoil. His initial thought was that the book didn’t have a beginning, middle and an ending. But Sater pulled it off with his production of “Alice By Heart.” After an off-Broadway [...]

  • The Lehman Trilogy review

    Sam Mendes' 'Lehman Trilogy' Kicks off Ahmanson's New Season

    Sam Mendes’ “The Lehman Trilogy,” which took London’s West End by storm will be part of the Ahmanson’s lineup for the 2020-21 season. It will be joined by Broadway hits “Hadestown” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Artistic director Michael Ritchie announced the season that will also feature four fan favorites and another production to be [...]

  • Zoe Caldwell Dead

    Zoe Caldwell, Four-Time Tony Winner, Dies at 86

    Zoe Caldwell, an Australian actress with a talent for illuminating the human side of imposing icons such as Cleopatra and Maria Callas in a career that netted her four Tony Awards, died on Sunday due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to her son Charlie Whitehead. She was 86. Caldwell occasionally appeared in television and [...]

  • Cambodian Rock Band interview

    Listen: How 'Cambodian Rock Band' Became One of the Most Produced Plays in the U.S.

    One of the hottest trends in American theater this season is Cambodian surf rock from the 1970s — and that’s thanks to “Cambodian Rock Band.” Listen to this week’s Stagecraft podcast below: Playwright Lauren Yee’s genre-bending stage show, part family drama and part rock concert, has become one of the most-produced plays in the U.S. this season. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content