We gave him a B +
The dramatist and filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan has earned a reputation in recent decades as a kind of master miniaturist, an astute chronicler of small, formative moments. His characters rarely live large screen lives; instead, they talk, meander and return, fumble for ordinary truths and somehow land on the deep.
The Waverly Gallery never quite relies on the emotional power of his most memorable canvas work such as You Can Count On Me and Manchester by the Sea ; his stakes are lower, his humor softer and his tragedies less penetrating. But it does have a movie star-cast ̵
May is Gladys Green The kind of lady one can say fit a lot of lives into her eighty-eight years before age and time began to slow her down. She lives in an undetermined year in Greenwich Village (there are drug dealers in the corners, and people say "analyst," not "therapist"), where she's long since withdrawn from law and now runs an art gallery on the ground floor Hotel that seems to work above all as a cozy extension to your living room.
It's technically a business, though most visitors are their own family members: their tense, meaningless daughter Ellen (Joan Allen); Ellen's affable husband Howard (David Cromer); and her grandson Daniel (Lucas Hedges). At least they know who they are: "We're Liberal atheist intellectuals of the Upper West Side," Daniel explains to an aspiring young artist named Don Bowman. "And we really like German choral music."
Don, played by Michael Cera in earth-colored anoraks and a greasy mustache suggestion, comes from New England to pursue the New York painter's dream, and Gladys is committed to putting him almost immediately on the gallery walls. But her thoughts slide a little further each day; At first, she can not remember names or facts, and she tends to ask the same questions over and over again, kindly. Is Ellen having dinner tonight? (Yes, just as she always does). Does Daniel enjoy his work at the newspaper? (Actually it's the EPA.) Can she give the dog something good? (Never, she has yet to lose weight.) Soon, however, her forgetfulness begins to become a full-blown dementia, evolving from mild harassment to some kind of family trouble.
May sees the role almost too disturbing; She is so small and fragile, almost translucent. But the power of her personality is undiminished almost to the end: Helen may not know where she is or why her grandson seems so upset to answer her home visits at 3 in the morning, but she wants to live . Hedges – which periodically break the fourth wall to fill the public – and all inhabit both parts with tender, lived naturalism.
It is Cera who feels mostly wasted in his role; he may be there to serve as a witness, since he will never come alive as his own character. Lonergan seems more interested in tracing the fear, resentment, and gallows humor associated with caring for an aging parent and all the ways people treat things they can not control. This is not the most dramatic drama on stage, but Waverly offers something else instead: an indelibly human, quietly heartrending study of mortality and family love. B +