Uma Thurman’s Star Power Cannot Overcome Shortcomings
On November 30, 2017, The Parisian Woman opened at the Hudson Theatre, where it had been running in previews since November 9, 2017. A new play by Beau Willimon, the playwright turned television writer who is best known for creating the Netflix series House of Cards, The Parisian Woman entered performances riding high on a wind of buzz, predominantly due to the star force of the leading lady, Uma Thurman. Thurman, who is making her Broadway debut with this production, is well known for such screen roles as Pulp Fiction, Batman & Robin, Dangerous Liaisons, Gattaca, and the 1998 version of Les Misérables. With this impressive filmography, initial sales for The Parisian Woman were high, with the first week of previews bringing in 88.36% of the show’s gross potential. Starring alongside Thurman are Blair Brown (Copenhagen, James Joyce’s The Dead, Cabaret), Phillipa Soo (Tony Award nominee for Hamilton), Josh Lucas (The Glass Menagerie), and Marton Csokas, making his Broadway debut. The director is Pam MacKinnon, the winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and 2012 Tony Award nominee for Clybourne Park. Under MacKinnon’s direction, The Parisian Woman had its world premiere in spring 2013 at South Coast Repertory Theatre, prior to its Broadway engagement.
Despite this pedigree from the cast and creative team, the critics were harsh in their negative reviews of this production. Jesse Green from The New York Times called the play boring, remarking that it makes use of every “cozy cliché” about power and deceit, and unapologetically stating that Uma Thurman is the only reason the play opened on Broadway. Marilyn Stasio from Variety compared Beau Willimon’s successful career leading to House of Cards, to The Parisian Woman’s leading its audience down a drain. She also was not a fan of Thurman’s performance, stating that she is from another “artistic solar system” than is called for by this captivating character. Jeremy Gerard from Deadline calls The Parisian Woman a “train wreck,” calling the dialogue “stilted,” Thurman’s attire “unflattering,” and the play lacking in the “cynical darkness” of House of Cards. Chris Jones from The Chicago Tribune called the play “stunningly smug” and a “wholly inept political satire,” criticizing how the characters fail to provide useful commentary on the current political climate. Jake Nevins from The Guardian was slightly less critical, giving it three stars out of five, complimenting Thurman’s “electric presence” but remarking upon the play’s unfortunate “contrivances.”
Box Office Took a Dip This Past Week
With such negative reviews, it is unlikely that Thurman’s star power alone will keep this box office in a healthy state. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending November 26, 2017, the weekly gross was less than it had been the previous week, bringing in a total of $692,006 over 8 performances, which represents 66.72% of its gross potential. In contrast, the previous week benefitted from the influx of theatregoers who rushed to see Thurman on stage, and the weekly gross was $832,844, or 80.29% of gross potential. However, now that the reviews are accessible and the report is not great, it is probable that the numbers will not get much higher than this. Currently, the play is scheduled to run until March 25, 2018, but the next few weeks will be telling whether the audience will be less incentivized to buy tickets with these negative reviews. While sometimes reviews have less power than one might think, in this case, the show was not a sell-out to begin with, which demonstrates that audience members are warily waiting to see if it’s worth their money before shelling out the dough. In this case, it is likely that the numbers will steadily decrease, especially following the holiday season into the cold months, and perhaps the show won’t make it to its presently scheduled closing date.
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