Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Walter Cronkite is Dead

Also see Susan's review of One Night With Fanny Brice

Nancy Robinette and Sherri L. Edelen
If all a viewer wants is to spend 90 minutes in the company of two of the Washington area's best-loved actresses, Walter Cronkite is Dead, receiving its world premiere in the ARK Theatre at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, provides that opportunity. As to whether the work offers dramatic action worthy of Nancy Robinette (recipient of five Helen Hayes Awards) and Sherri L. Edelen (who has received two of the awards): They talk ... and talk ... and talk ... a lot.

Playwright Joe Calarco, who also directed this production, set it up as a bridge between representatives of "red-state" and "blue-state" America and the importance of looking beneath the surface. He does provide a few small flashes of surprise behind the facades of the characters, but basically it's a case of two strangers talking and neither one listening very much.

James Kronzer's set is a facsimile of a gate area of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (not far from the theater) in the midst of a storm that has grounded all flights on the East Coast. Patty (Edelen) is a garrulous transplant from Tennessee whose flight to London has been indefinitely delayed, and Margaret (Robinette) is a lifelong Washingtonian, a dowager awaiting her son for a shuttle flight to New York where she will board a flight to Moscow. (A small quibble: Why did Calarco choose National, which doesn't actually provide trans-Atlantic service, rather than Dulles International Airport? The audience might expect some back-and-forth about the merits of the airport's namesake, but the subject of the 40th president never arises.)

Patty, with her down-home twang and her relentless need to converse with someone, anyone, explains that she has visited much of Europe with her daughter in the past, but this year the mother-daughter relationship has become strained and her daughter has decided not to go. As Margaret attempts to isolate herself with a guidebook and a carafe of wine, Patty rattles on: "This is what I do. I annoy people." Of course, Margaret's well-bred sense of politeness means that eventually she gives up and joins the conversation.

Topics that come up during the intermission-less performance include devotion to the Kennedy family mystique; concern that The Exorcist might have been a true story; how knowing how to smoke a cigarette was once a mark of distinction; and the belief that the London production of The Lion King must be better than Broadway because, after all, the British have a much longer theatrical tradition.

Both performers give the material all they can, and much of the humor and pathos come from subtle moments: the haunted look that flickers through Robinette's eyes, the sense that Edelen needs to keep moving—even if just from one foot to the other.

Signature Theatre
Walter Cronkite is Dead
October 26th —December 26th
Written and directed by Joe Calarco
Margaret: Nancy Robinette
Patty: Sherri L. Edelen
ARK Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, Virginia 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or>

Photo: Scott Suchman

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