Cashing in on anti-Trump sentiment with cheap jokes, The Parisian Woman, by Beau Willimon, is toothless as political satire. As a drama about behind-the-scenes shenanigans in Washington, it seems to have no insider info to offer but rather hauls out the usual: scandal-mongering and veiled threats of blackmail, all far tamer than anything we hear about in the news on a daily basis. And as a naughty wink/wink comedy, it is, simply, leaden.
This is especially disappointing since the starry cast promised interest if not greatness, neither of which was on offer. Uma Thurman, making her Broadway debut after her cult-figure Hollywood career in Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, radiates tension from every stiff limb, from ankles to fingers. She plays Chloe, the title character, a shallow but much-desired wife of a farm boy from Nebraska turned slick tax lawyer (Josh Lucas); he is hoping for an appointment as a federal judge. As a couple, their ambitions are predictably ruthless, and just as he has no qualms about lying to a Congressional committee, she is not above trading sex for favors. Her only occupations are reading pulp fiction and talking about "pleasure" and "beauty." It’s a role Thurman is far too dignified and elegant to play; she doesn’t approach anything like the sauciness that might bring The Parisian Woman to life.
Peter (Marton Czokas) is Chloe's lover, although his physical awkwardness is so extreme that it is hard to imagine a powerful banker would not have acquired more polish along the way. Another power broker, Jeanette (Blair Brown), thinks she is wheedling gossip out of Chloe but is instead blindsided by the revelation that her Harvard law grad daughter, Rebecca (Phillipa Soo), is another of Chloe's lovers. Once Chloe gets to graphic sexual reminiscing, the script descends to shameless chick lit.
If that isn't trashy enough, consider the dialogue that offers only cliches: "You're a breath of fresh air," "You are a monster!", "He can be managed," and everyone's favorite, "You're better than that." The set, designed by Derek McLane, looks like a combination of an overpriced hotel in D.C. and an old-time furniture store display, while scene changes are announced by projections (designed Darrel Maloney) of pixilated headlines, a clashing stylistic contrast to the set and the play.
Director Pam MacKinnon apparently couldn't figure out anything for these actors to do but pour drinks and face each other in profile across the stage.
The Parisian Woman. Through March 11 at the Hudson Theatre, 141 West 44th St., New York.