Garden Party

BY Jeremy Kinser

November 05 2010 2:20 PM ET

EDIE BEALE MAIN X390 | ADVOCATE.COMSo you two collaborated on this show?
He handed me a monologue version that we workshopped and edited down tremendously so it would have enough shape and meaning to it. Then we inserted the songs. That’s how it came about. I had never thought of imitating her or anything, but he brought it to me and said after seeing me perform in other things I’d be perfect to do it.

Is your show a full replication of the act she did at Reno Sweeney?
For the most part, yes, but it’s not verbatim of one particular show. Her show had an improv quality to it because she would lose her place a lot and talk and ask him where to go and what was next. What we did was, once we got the monologue part we were going to use, we had to write transitions in and out of songs to make it all flow and make sense. For the most part it’s taken from the nights she performed. The audience is as much a part of the show as she is.

How much of your Edie is imitation and how much is your interpretation of her?
Being a man, I try as best as I can to replicate her speech patterns, her sound, and her physicality. I try to give enough of her spirit and essence. There’s no recording of her show, so I couldn’t listen to it. After we put together the show, I watched the movie again to see where her pitch goes when she’s angry, where her speech differs, this is physically what she does.

Have you had response from people who saw Edie’s original 1978 show?
The majority of them say that it was creepy in a good way. Jerry [Torre, a handyman featured in the documentary] came to see it. Albert Maysles [codirector of Grey Gardens and its sequel] came. They both said they saw the show and it was extremely accurate. Jerry said it was as if I knew her personally and had studied her shows.

It’s been 35 years since Grey Gardens premiered. Why do you think we’re still fascinated by the Beales?
I think there’s an element that we relate to either in our own character or an eccentric aunt. There’s something that’s universal and timeless about them. There’s also the question of whether they’re really crazy. In one respect you can say yes, and in another you can say absolutely not. It’s an ongoing mystery.

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Tags: Theater

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