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'Grey Gardens' is poignant Broadway stuff

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You wouldn't imagine much reason to sing about an aging, eccentric mother-daughter pair, holed up together in a decrepit mansion on Long Island, but Christine Ebersole as both Edith Bouvier Beale (Act I) and her daughter "Little" Edie (Act II, 32 years later) vastly expands the theatrical equation. Based on the 1975 Maysles brothers documentary, the Doug Wright/Scott Frankel/Michael Korie musical "Grey Gardens" opened earlier this year at Playwrights Horizons and now is at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre. Delivering the performance of a lifetime, Ebersole plays the remains of this dysfunctional family (aunt and cousin to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, portrayed as a knowing child in the show).

Act I is set in 1941 at Little Edie's engagement party to Joseph Kennedy Jr., when Mama takes pride of place in the entertainment – starring herself as vocalist – to her daughter's embarrassment. Erin Davie stands in for the young Edie. Mary Louise Wilson joins Ebersole in the second act as her bedridden mother, a startling combination of neediness and noblesse oblige that's both emotional and economic. The score is unremarkable except for its performance by the dedicated cast, particularly Ebersole's solo, "Another Winter in a Summer Town," making this musical drama of familial interdependence an experience to be cherished. Grade: A


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