Laura Linney in ‘My Name Is Lucy Barton’: work based on the novel by Elizabeth Strout opens in New York

Linney is one of those actors who seems to glide effortlessly from one project to another, from cinema to television and on stage, and always with an understanding of the character completely entertained: those intelligent eyes help us unravel the mysteries of motive and intention. In “My name is Lucy Barton,” which had its official Broadway premiere Wednesday at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater at the Manhattan Theater Club, Linney casts two pairs of eyes, playing both the middle-aged woman of the title and her mother. prickly and separate. He has come to visit her at the hospital.

Under the austere direction of Richard Eyre, Linney deftly operates the revolving psychological door of the Rona Munro monodrama, based on the 2016 novel by Elizabeth Strout. Lucy, a writer who escaped to New York after a rural childhood in Illinois, absent of material comfort and family warmth, struggles in the hospital with external and internal infections: her mother, bearer of the spread of cold disappointment, is coming. next to her daughter’s bed for a vigil that makes Lucy recover from the memories of a dry and sometimes violent upbringing, and, ultimately, to a deeper appreciation of life that could later begin.

However, even in about 90 economic minutes, “My Name Is Lucy Barton” itself presents itself as an unsatisfactory drama, driven too transparently by novel formulas. Strout is the exemplary portraitist of “Olive Kitteridge,” an award-winning novel turned into an equally rewarding miniseries starring Frances McDormand. Again, in “Lucy Barton”, the most interesting character is an older woman defined by what she keeps firmly under control. Only in this more compressed scenic interpretation, Linney never discovers the absorbing types of secrets that could distinguish “My Name Is Lucy Barton” from countless dramatic meditations on mothers and daughters. The play, if this is possible, seems too long and too short.

The production is not favored by its faint underlining or its postcard photo backgrounds, which are intended to convene resonant American images, and probably did, for the public at the London Bridge Theater, where it originated. Here, they never rise above the cliché level.

However, for Linney fans, there is a full dose of an eminently observable, commendable actress in charge, especially in the most fragile countenance of Lucy’s mother. While sometimes it is taken for loneliness and a certain refinement, for my money, Linney is made for a more earthly ambiguity. Think of your nuanced work in the Netflix crime thriller “Ozark” or in independent films like “You Can Count on Me” and “The Savages.” When you switch to the hardest gears of the mother and the cadences of the Midwest, you get satisfactory hints of stealth. and unpredictable forces. The darkness becomes her.

My name is lucy barton, adapted by Rona Munro from the novel by Elizabeth Strout. Directed by Richard Eyre. Ensemble and costumes, Bob Crowley; lighting, Peter Mumford; sound, John Leonard; video, Luke Halls. About 90 minutes $ 89- $ 189. Until February 29 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 261 W. 47th St., New York. 212-239-6200.

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