Grey Gardens: The Musical was made for a run at Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theater, just a few miles from the original East Hampton real estate that inspired the Maysles' Brothers classic documentary film.
Starring the two Edies Beale, inseparable mother and daughter, the nonfiction film spawned an HBO movie from the Broadway play, book by Doug Wright, music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie. The evolution from the facts of the mother-daughter symbiosis uncovered by David and Albert Maysles is a story with its own momentum.
While the documentary simply turned the cameras on two very theatrical relatives of the Bouvier/ Kennedy clan, now down on their money and living in the East Hampton beachfront raccoon infested mansion, Doug Wright's book teases out a back story of a mother-daughter bond that is histrionic, operatic and will make any viewer reconsider the nurturing and destructive forces of family, and the limited place of women in midcentury American culture, even if they come from wealth, position and power.
Grey Gardens is about a place, and Jeff Cowie's set slides easily from a grand house in '40's era Act 1 to dirt-encrusted dilapidation in '70's Act II. Under Michael Wilson's direction, the play is the perfect vehicle for mega-voices, in ample supply in Bay Street's production. With Broadway legend Betty Buckley as the elder Edie in Act II, and Rachel York as the older in Act I, and younger in Act II, this is York's show. As Big Edie, she is elegant, as Little Edie, eccentric in shmattes attached by safety pins, or as she sings of her fashion choices, "The Revolutionary Costume for Today." Scott Frankel's music and Michael Korie's lyrics are memorable, especially "Will You?," "Another Winter in a Summer Town," and the ironic "The Girl Who Has Everything."
As it moves through time, Grey Gardens can be seen as a cautionary tale on what can happen between girls and their mothers when they simply cannot leave home.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.