By Joseph Cervelli
As the saying goes, power is truly a might aphrodisiac What some people won’t go through to achieve it is sometimes quite amazing. Such is the case in Beau Willimon’s crisply written new play “The Parisian Woman” at the Hudson Theater with the title role played with icy perfection by Uma Thurman. Not only is the stately Thurman beautiful but as Chloe conveys this enigma which is evident in many of her films. Other characters remark how much her character is liked and one can easily believe that. She seems to be laid back not trying to seek out any attention to herself in the midst of political maneuvering (play takes at the present time in D.C.) but only there to help her tax attorney husband (Tom) convincingly played by the dashing Josh Lucas. But hold on a bit. This seemingly sweet and congenial lady will do what she can to get Tom a judgeship on the Court of Appeals. Tom has been working for many senators who owe him a lot for his keeping their less than stellar dealings from landing in jail. Yet, they are not coming forth to influence President Trump (yep, he is mentioned throughout and as you would expect not in flattering terms) to appoint him. Much of the dialogue is smartly written and quite witty although some of the typical Trump comments are worn.
Chloe is having a fling (well, to her) with Peter (Marton Csokas) who is madly in love with her and wants her to leave Tom. It seems that Tom is aware of this but since Peter is quite a wealthy banker and contributed much to the President’s campaign his influence could help Tom’s chances to get this position. While Peter is amusing there is something a bit too cartoonish the way he is portrayed by Csokas. Pam MacKinnon (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”) direction as usual is stinging and always on target yet not sure why she decided to turn Peter into such a goofy fellow. Even those moments when he acts in a venomous manner don’t come across as they should.
Not convinced that Peter is the one to advance Tom’s chances, Chloe accepts a dinner party invitation with the equally wealthy and influential Jeannette (an excellent Blair Brown) who has been nominated for Chairperson of the Federal Reserve. While the couple don’t particularly care for the sometimes caustic Jeannette she could be a bit help to Tom.. At the party we are introduced to their lovely and brilliant daughter Rebecca (played with heartfelt emotion by Phillipa Soo) a Democrat who just graduated from Harvard a the top of her class and wants to run for office after practicing law. Even though Jeannette does not succumb to Chloe's wishes that does not preclude the determined wife from doing what she can to help her husband.
There is a turn of events later in the one act play which under MacKinnon’s director moves speedily along proving that Chloe is far from being a “Stepford Wife.” She is shrewd and unfaltering in her determination. Again, this is Thurman’s show all the way. Watching her confront one of the character’s in the play’s pivotal moment I could not help thinking of what a wonderful Regina Giddens from “the Little Foxes” she would make in a few years time. Just listen when she tells the other person to “sit down.” It is a command that jolts you since it comes from almost no where. This woman is not to be toyed with. The sobriquet “Parisian Woman” was deemed by Tom because Chloe spent a number of years in Paris where she fell madly in love with a fellow who eventually deceived her.
Derek McLane’s decorous stage is a high point and notice the way two characters come though two different openings when the LED board appears between scenes. Their expressions tell you that not all is what it appears to be.
Yes, some of the play may feel manipulative and predictable but it is generally so well acted and Thurman (clothed exquisitely by the always superb Jane Greenwood) is thrilling in such a quiet way that you are drawn into this snappishly entertaining play.
Tickets are available at the Hudson Theater 41 44th Street or by calling 855.801.5876.
PHOTOS: MATTHEW MURPHY