Thursday, March 19, 2009

Natasha Richardson

I will leave it to those who have already done admirable jobs summing up--as much as is possible--the career and life of actress Natasha Richardson. Instead, I offer you a review from a theater performance of hers from sixteen years ago. I never saw Richardson's performance in Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, but I never forgot Frank Rich's review in the New York Times. Rich seemed to me to be describing something truly extraordinary, the kind of performance one should change schedules and cross oceans to see. On top of all the sadness in the sudden death of a young and, by all accounts, kind and lovely person, there is the sadness that we will now have no new chances to be amazed by what Rich called her "astonishing" gifts as an actress.

From Review/Theater; A Fierce View of Tragic Lives
Published: January 15, 1993, Friday

Rich has this to say:
Following the example of his peers, Mr. Leveaux seamlessly mixes actors from both sides of the Atlantic in his company. The astonishing Natasha Richardson, who was also brilliant in "Suddenly, Last Summer," gives what may prove to be the performance of the season as Anna, turning a heroine who has long been portrayed (and reviled) as a whore with a heart of gold into a tough, ruthlessly unsentimental apostle of O'Neill's tragic understanding of life. Yet Miss Richardson could not triumph without the sensitive partnering she receives from both Liam Neeson, the Irish actor recently seen courting Mia Farrow in "Husbands and Wives," and Rip Torn, an actor's actor in the gritty New York style.

And this:
Miss Richardson, seeming more like a youthful incarnation of her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, than she has before, is riveting from her first entrance through a saloon doorway's ethereal shaft of golden light. Her face bruised, her eyelids heavy, her slender frame draped in the gaudy fabrics and cheap jewelry of her trade, she is the tattered repository of a thousand anonymous men's alcoholic lusts and fists. But the actress does not make Anna a victim deserving of abject pity. She forces the audience instead to see this woman's fiercely held point of view.

To read the full review, click here.
[there is some phrasing in Rich's review that is unfortunate, given the cause of Richardson's death]

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