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Mommy, My Name is Lucy Barton And I’m in Need.

Mommy, My Name is Lucy Barton And I’m in Need.

Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there,” Lucy says, “hidden inside the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.” And in those words a structure of understanding and underlying personal fear is imbedded in the stage adaptation of Author Elizabeth Strout’s (Olive Kitteridge) achingly simple but defiant My Name is Lucy Barton. Adapted by the detailed Rona Munro (Bold Girls, The James Plays), the precise entrance of the lead makes it clear that this one act one woman play is going to dive into family dysfunction from a foggy memory stance. Framed on the strong presence and dynamic voice of star Laura Linney (MTC’s The Little Foxes), her character starts and shifts, as memory often does, from one vision to another, beautifully articulating and bring forth the majesty of the cornfield light of Illinois, while also teasing out the painful memories of abuse and neglect.

As directed with clear intention by Richard Eyre (Bristol Old Vic/BAM’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night), the intimate play delivers the disconnected pain of destruction with gentle directive intent. It seeps inside, although at time it meanders almost a bit too much from present family dynamics, stopping in on AIDS memories of “gaunt and bony men” walking past her Greenwich Village stoop in the 1980’s, back to one particular moment of locked up fear and abandonment. Some moments feel lived in, while others feel designed for affect, but the main familial trauma doesn’t get etched enough in detail and circumstance. It’s clear her childhood is damaged and torn, but the unsentimental vagueness is both a curse to the emotionality and a blessing to the humanity and authenticity of personal pain.

Laura Linney. Photos: Matthew Murphy.

The story that unfolds is centered around a hospital bed and an arm chair, where Lucy spends nine weeks in uncertainty of her own survival. The scenic and costume design by Bob Crowley (West End/Broadway’s The Inheritance), with a concise sound design by John Leonard (Almeida’s Little Eyolf), sets the right tone, but the overly fussy shape shifting lighting by Peter Mumford (West End/Broadway’s The Ferryman) falters in a way that leaves Linney’s Lucy bouncing in and out of light and time. The simplicity and straightforwardness of the language would have been a good platform to emulate in this arena, but there is not enough faith in that component, as well as the video design by Luke Halls (Broadway’s Sea Wall/A Life), to let the focus lie where it truly belongs, on the shoulders of the play’s magnificently talented star and her ability to draw us through her story without effects.

Linny, with her clarity and rhythm, pulls us into her story, particularly when she wakes to find her mother, who she has not seen in far too many years, sitting in that armchair in the hospital room watching over her. Where will this go? The differing pathways are endless, and through Strout’s dark and familiar words describing all things small and ruthless, many roads are taken all at the same time. It’s intricate and complex, as there’s a desperate need of attachment and acknowledgement from within Lucy, most which will go unanswered or unheard. But there is something of a different sort; an engagement through gossipy story-telling, a sharp diligence of being present, and the clearness of a tortured look. They all give her dynamics to hold onto in those nine weeks that leaves her wanting and waiting for things that won’t come. The play builds strongly and quietly to the top of the hill., but it’s not the highest mountain, nor the sharpest of cliffs. The grade, though, is clear. Lucy Barton ends her story with precision, but sadly strolls forward for about two minutes too long, ending on an overly wordy moment of non-clarity that seems unworthy of the rest.

Laura Linney in My Name is Lucy Barton at Manhattan Theatre Club. Photos: Matthew Murphy.


My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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