WaterTower Theatre's Grey Gardens: Shades of Glamour Amid Stray Cats and Corn

In WaterTower's production of Grey Gardens, a rare ensemble of actors and singers pull off one of the great shows of the theater season.

Whalen, who left Dallas for New York last year, sings in a fluty soprano and looks lovely. But as her first act Edie breaks down, she hints at the squawking cuckoo her character later becomes. "Trust me, Joe, my days at Grey Gardens are limited," she says, and we think "Uh-oh."

Floyd is a fine choice for campy ivory-tickler Gould. He looks suave in his crisp blazers (the costumes, which seem heavily inspired by the Broadway version, are by Aaron Patrick Turner). Floyd's solo at the piano, the ballad "Drift Away," is one of the evening's sweetest turns.

Elliott, sporting a handlebar moustache, is every inch the starchy patrician as "Major" Bouvier. The little girls are adorable.

Love among the ruins: Kim Whalen is the Act I Little Edie with Matt Moore as Joe Kennedy Jr. in Grey Gardens.
Mark Oristano
Love among the ruins: Kim Whalen is the Act I Little Edie with Matt Moore as Joe Kennedy Jr. in Grey Gardens.

Only Kenne Sparks, as the butler, sticks out as unpolished and under-directed. It's the second time this season Sparks has played a servant (he was a porter in Contemporary Theatre's Knights of the White Magnolia) and he's done it both times with a Stepin Fetchit grin and shuffle. Not good.

Over everyone, however, soars the magnificent performance of Pam Dougherty, a veteran North Texas actress. As the second-act Big Edie, she's almost always in bed, sitting up barely dressed under layers of quilts. From there she reigns, her singing voice blending with Sheehan's as if they share DNA. Looking just like her documentary counterpart, Dougherty's Edith is a charming, terrifying, terribly needy narcissist. With every blast of "Edieeeee!" the walls of her make-believe mansion seem to tremble.

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