I saw *The Ferryman* on Broadway on 1/3/19. It’s a new play by Jez Butterworth, come on over from London, directed by Sam Mendes. I had the most delightful celebrity interaction before the show. I went to a pizza joint on 46th and 8th, ordered my white broccoli slice, and waited at the end of the counter to pay for it. I was standing next to a beautiful, tiny woman with gorgeous white, curly hair.
ME: Excuse me, are you Fionnula Flanagan?
HER: I am Fionnula Flanagan.
ME: I’m seeing your play tonight!
HER: I hope you enjoy it.
And then we were both silent, waiting for the cashier to deliver our slices. She paid for hers first, and said, again, “I hope you enjoy the play.” It was so charming. Of course I was tempted to take a selfie, but it would have broken the spell.
And then another delightful surprise - - I ran into my friend Lee in the bathroom at the theater. He’s a friend of a friend (Jeff Lunden is our mutual friend, for those of you who know Jeff) and we run into each other about once a year. We chatted for a bit, discovered that we were both sitting in the balcony, and said we’d seek each other out at intermission. No need, because we were sitting right next to each other!
I’m sad to report that the play itself didn’t match the wonder and magic of either of these interactions. It was too damn long - - at three hours and fifteen minutes, it could easily be trimmed down to two and a half hours. My husband tells me the problem is the author is still alive. Another problem is I had a lot of trouble understanding the thick Irish accents. I don’t watch as much PBS as some other people. And most frustrating of all, the play was an epic family drama with twenty-one characters and it was never clear to me how they were all related. Some things were clear but plenty of others were not.
There were three elements in the play that got a lot of press and made it a very special experience. There were two live animals in the play, a bunny and a goose. The goose was fascinating to watch, and the bunny, of course, was adorable. But best of all was the baby! Yes, a real live baby onstage, maybe about six months old, maybe younger. The highlight of the whole play was a scene where a young woman, either his sister, cousin, or aunt (see what I mean) is changing him. She has him on his floor, on his back, and is singing a song and moving his legs along with her singing. He batted his arms around with glee, and he audience dissolved in a chorus of AWW. One of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen onstage.
There were moments of lyricism and finely wrought writing, especially the monologue by Fionnula Flanagan, who I hope will be nominated for a Tony. The ending was very intense, a real punch in the face in the last three minutes. It felt like it wasn’t really earned after the previous three hours, it felt pasted on and sort of cheap and desperate.