'Weeds' Mary-Louise Parker great in lackluster 'Snow Geese'


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Mary-Louise Parker can convey soul-crushing grief yet show hints of faded playfulness as a widow in "The Snow Geese."

Parker, as she was in "Weeds" and "The West Wing," is terrific.

So is the rest of the cast at Manhattan Theatre Club at The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The play has lines of incisive dialog, hits on the meaning of life, love, and grief that knows no bottom.

Yet, "Snow Geese" is, sadly, dull.

It's a strange conundrum: How can a play be cast, staged and performed so well yet leave us feeling so very little?

Set in November 1917, a shattered family gathers in the parlor of a hunting lodge. Parker is Elizabeth, mourning her rakish husband ( Christopher Innvar) who died a couple of months ago. Her grief is so consuming that her sister and brother-in-law, a physician, are very worried about her. 

Danny Burstein ("Boardwalk Empire") plays Max, the doctor, and, as usual gives a nuanced performance. Victoria Clark ("Cinderella") plays Clarissa, his wife and Elizabeth's sister. He's a German émigré who has lived in the United States for 30 years.

Though he took care of people in his town for decades, that didn't stop his neighbors from burning down his house. The anti-German fervor during the war has left them living with her sister. They had a daughter who died as a child.

Elizabeth has two sons; her favorite, the older, Duncan ( Evan Jonigkeit, "Girls"), is home from college. He's well educated, but not bright, a solider but not brave. Mostly, he is charming, like his father, and clueless, also like his father.

Then there's Arnold ( Brian Cross), the younger son, whose dutiful nature is taken for granted. While the older son went away to expensive schools, he stayed home. He has pored over the family's ledgers and figured out that they are broke. 

Their father mismanaged all accounts and they need to sell the lodge.

Everyone is quite good, and yet by the end when the actors look understandably spent, the audience is unmoved.
Photo/Video credit: Joan Marcus