Saturday, April 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Review: THE MADRID

A capable cast led by Edie Falco creates a cadre of unlikeable women and henpecked men in "The Madrid," says critic Toby Zinman.

Review: THE MADRID

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer 

Edie Falco is the big draw for The Madrid, a play by a little-known author who also happens to be a producer on Nurse Jackie, an enormously popular TV series starring Emmy-winning Falco in the title role.  Falco’s fame was firmly established as Carmen Soprano in The Sopranos, for which she won three Emmys, two Golden Globes and two SAG awards. The Madrid has none of the magnetic characters or the quotable dialogue of either of those shows. 

The plot centers on Martha (Falco), a kindergarten teacher who one day mysteriously vanishes.  She leaves her loving husband (John Ellison Conlee) and daughter (Phoebe Strole), her job, her ailing mother (Frances Sternhagen) and her meddlesome but concerned neighbors (Christopher Evan Welch and Heidi Schreck) without a word. Oddly, nobody worries that she is harmed or dead. Months later she reappears in a Starbuck’s where Sarah, her college-graduate daughter works, having foregone both a trip to Guatemala and an interview for a teaching job to stay home with her heartbroken father. Martha makes Sarah promise not to tell her father that she is living in a sleazy apartment building called the Madrid not far from the family home. Sarah agrees because she is so desperate to keep her mother in her life. 

Martha declares, “I have worked very hard to get here,” having planned her disappearance for three years. She never explains herself in any way that elicits sympathy (doesn’t everybody feel the “endlessness” of it all sometimes?). Sarah, for all her take-charge martyrdom, is acid-tongued, and Rose, Maratha’s mother, is judgmental and annoying despite the encroaching darkness of Alzheimer’s.  The neighbor, Becca, is a helicopter parent and a busybody.  In other words, this is a collection of relatively unpleasant women, none of whom one would want to have as a friend. The male characters fare better, although their hen-peckedness is more pitiable than sweet. 

The result is a very capably acted play with very realistic dialogue that struggles to persuade us to care about these people. The situations are recognizable and familiar and painful, but then we knew they were painful – this is the stuff of daytime soaps. Not much light shed here.

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Manhattan Theatre Club, NY City Center Stage 1, 131 W. 55th St. Tickets: $85. Information: 212-581-1212. Through April 14.

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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