- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

Musical theater based on a David and Edie Beale?

The blue-blood bizarros of “Grey Gardens,” Serge Seiden.

The intimate space of Studio’s Metheny Theatre allows us to enter the strange, entrancingly isolated world of the Beales instead of observing their patrician nattering from a polite distance. Rather than two strikingly different acts - the first taking place during the East Hampton estate Grey Gardens’ heyday in 1941 and the second 32 years later when the mother and daughter live in cat-infested squalor in the same mansion - Studio’s production blends the two eras into a dreamlike whole.

As peppy as the depiction of socialite bohemia is in the first act, you do get echoes of the delusion and decay to come. Edith (Barbara Broughton plays Edith in the second act not just as a decrepit crone, but displays glimpses of the abundant charm and humor befitting a society lady, especially in her triumphant ode to selfishness, “The Cake I Had.”

Miss Walsh has the Herculean task of playing Edith in the first act and Edie in the second, and she sinks her teeth into both roles with consummate skill and class. As grandly soignee as she is as Edith, she is artfully and completely crackers as Edie - cackling songs and asides in a spot-on Long Island accent and mincing about like a boy-crazy teenager. Miss Walsh has a field day with “The Revolutionary Costume,” a deliriously deranged variation on the comic patter song, but also gives the right amount of rue to the elegiac “Another Winter in a Summer Town.”

“Grey Gardens” mingles high camp and crumbling facades (both human and architectural) in a thrilling way, but sometimes you wish the music were more varied and distinctive and up to the level of the stylish lyrics. Think of it this way: If Edie Beale had a Freudian slip, she’d wear it on her head fastened with a gaudy brooch.

★★★½

WHAT: “Grey Gardens,” book by Michael Korie

WHERE: Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW

WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Jan. 4.

TICKETS: $49 to $69

PHONE: 202/332-3300

WEB SITE: www.studiotheatre.org

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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