My Name is Lucy Barton, adapted by Rona Munro from Elizabeth Strout’s (Olive Kitteridge), 2016 best seller, is a memory play starring Laura Linney (MTC’s The Little Foxes). Only 90 minutes long this play seems to go on forever. The show covers when Stout, had to be hospitalized in NYC for almost nine weeks. Missing her husband and her two children, after about three weeks, she finds her mother sitting in a chair at the foot of her bed. The two are estranged. Lucy has not seen her mother for years and now she is here. Lucy’s abusive and neglectful childhood in Amgash, Illinois, is brought back to the forefront. The tension and longing that has scared her all her life is back. We learn of her family dysfunction, as her memory foggily remembers her past. Even though the adult Lucy has otherwise erased the pain to be in a safe place, she returns to these moments that shaped her life.
Set in 1980s New York, Lucy, is a West Village writer. During the course of her memory being jarred, she relives her abuse from her PTSD military father and the years during the AIDS crises. Linney plays both her cold , unfeeling mother and the woman who is trying to live past this latest ordeal. In the end Ultimately, Lucy confesses to how much she loves her difficult mother and one wonders why?
Linney’s simplicity makes these character real, but like the Apple plays nothing really happens and I find that a bore.
Directed by five-time Olivier Award winner Richard Eyre, the play feels like someone reading a book. Ms Maro has literally given us the book. It doesn’t seem like a play as there is no reality to the words being said. We just don’t talk like this.
The set is a hospital bed and an arm chair, design by Bob Crowley (The Inheritance) who also did the costumes. The sound design by John Leonard is well done, but the lighting by Peter Mumford (The Ferryman) and video design by Luke Halls (Sea Wall/A Life), don’t allow the play to focus.
In the end Lucy, who strives to be heard, becomes just words on a page and is way to talkie. Thank-God for Linney, but even she can’t save this meandering work.
My Name is Lucy Barton: Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W 47th St, until Feb. 29th.