'Far from Heaven' at SpeakEasy strives to improve upon weak source material

Director Scott Edmiston does what he can to overcome the source material, and assembles here an incredibly talented ensemble that proves a good production of a bad musical is indeed possible.

Far from Heaven at Speakeasy Stage Company. Credit: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo "Far from Heaven" at Speakeasy Stage Company.
Credit: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

 

Despite a strong production by SpeakEasy Stage Company, “Far From Heaven” is a terrible musical.

 

 

Adapted from the 2002 film that earned an Oscar nomination for Julianne Moore, this schmaltzy melodrama suffers from inane dialogue, predictable plotlines, underdeveloped characters and a score you probably won’t recognize ten minutes after the curtain falls.

 

Director Scott Edmiston does what he can to overcome the source material, and assembles here an incredibly talented ensemble that proves a good production of a bad musical is indeed possible.

The set is a series of empty, larger-than-life-sized picture frames that offer a glimpse into the lovely, lily-white, bucolic world of Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1957. Cocktails and charity events fuel their Stepford-like existence, which looks much more beautiful thanks to Charles Schoonmaker’s stunning costumes.

The prettiest picture of all is that of Cathy and Frank Whitaker, the handsome young couple so perfect even the society page is reporting on them. Of course, all is not as it seems and (no spoilers) the façade eventually crumbles.

Jennifer Ellis (despite the bad blonde wig) delivers a stellar turn as Cathy, capturing her fall from grace with subtle, yet powerful shifts in her demeanor. Jared Troilo doesn’t fare quite as well vocally as Frank, though the duo’s lack of chemistry nicely facilitates the story of their disintegrating marriage.

Aimee Doherty is especially good as Cathy’s only true friend Eleanor, while Kerry Dowling is perfection as the town’s gossipy society columnist. Will McGarrahan shines in dual roles as a psychiatrist and a persnickety Manhattan art dealer.

With one simple look in response to a partygoer’s observation about the lack of “negroes” in Hartford, ensemble player Carla Martinez brilliantly captures the fury and frustration of subjugated African-American domestics.

If only the play were as good as the production.

If you go
“Far From Heaven”
Through Oct. 11
BCA Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont St., Boston
$25-$56, 617-933-8600
www.SpeakEasyStage.com

 
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