In both his movie and the musical, Cathy, an affluent white housewife discovers that her husband is a closeted gay man and finds solace in a relationship with her African-American gardener, both scandalously unacceptable behaviors in her country-club world.
So I kicked myself when I failed to get up to the Williamstown Theatre Festival when Far From Heaven debuted there last summer. And when I read that Playwrights Horizons planned to mount the play this spring, I subscribed for its entire season just so that I would be sure to get tickets.
But Greenberg has taken the material so seriously that much of the life has been leached out of it. The show might have had more theatrical vitality if he’d been less reverential.
Meanwhile, director Michael Greif, the man behind such emotionally satisfying musicals as Grey Gardens, Next to Normal and Rent, has given the show a cinematic feel with the use of scene-setting video projections that play against an ERECTOR-style set designed by Allen Moyer.
But despite helpful lighting by Kenneth Posner, the interplay between the actors is often overshadowed and seems removed, which only underscored the show’s aloofness.
But while the songs are pretty and unafraid of metaphors, this is largely a sung-through show and it can be difficult to understand all of the lyrics, at least on first hearing.
The rest of the 15-member ensemble is strong too, particularly Nancy Anderson as Cathy's best friend and Quincy Tyler Bernstine, who brings knowing empathy to the small and almost silent role of the family's maid.