Tony winners Jeremy Irons ("The Real Thing") and Joan Allen ("Burn This") certainly hitched their stars to the wrong wagon when returning to Broadway after absences of more than two decades. Their new play, "Impressionism," was roundly slammed by the critics. And now neither of these two honored performers — Oscar winner Jeremy Irons ("Reversal of Fortune") and three-time Oscar nominee Joan Allen — is likely to figure in the crowded lead acting races at this year's Tony Awards.
However, the real fault lies not in the stars but with playwright Michael Jacobs, who has had just one other of his works even run on Broadway. That was the comedy "Cheaters" which lasted a mere four weeks back in 1978. Since then Jacobs has worked primarily in TV ("Charles in Charge," "Boy Meets World"). After a bumpy series of preview performances, the opening night for "Impressionism" was postponed from March 12. The author went to work restructuring the play and even cut the intermission, but, as per the critics, his efforts were of little use.
As Ben Brantley of the New York Times writes, "I’ve concluded that even if I were to back up all the way to the Hudson River, with half-open eyes fixed on the stage where Mr. Irons and Ms. Allen labor so valiantly, 'Impressionism' still wouldn’t look credible. I mean this both in terms of its plot and as a proposition that would entice some very talented people and a vast army of producers." Ouch!
For Elysa Gardner of USA Today, "Both lead actors seem stumped by their awkwardly, sentimentally drawn roles, as does their estimable director, Jack O'Brien. Irons manages to bring redeeming grace to the performance, speaking his lines with a knowing gentleness and exuding an easy, rumpled charm. Allen's readings, in contrast, seem breathless and strained, as though she is struggling to force more genuine life and nuance into Katharine."
And says Michael Kuchwara of the AP, "'Impressionism' is an elaborate if awkward romance, positively brimming with self-importance, and showcased in a setting that includes a parade of gorgeous photographic reproductions of famous paintings. As a play, it never reaches the lofty level of its ambition despite a starry cast that includes Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen as a pair of wounded artistic types who are attracted to each other. Eventually."
Photo: Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre