Monday, August 31, 2009

Complex family drama grounds Grey Gardens

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 at 7:58 PM

click to enlarge SAY IT AIN'T SOW: Norman Vincent Peale (Wade Benson, left) and Big Edie (Kathleen McManus)
  • SAY IT AIN'T SOW: Norman Vincent Peale (Wade Benson, left) and Big Edie (Kathleen McManus)

In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde wrote, “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.” The stage musical Grey Gardens emphasizes the tragic transformation of “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale by casting the same actress as both Little Edie and her mother at high and low ebbs of their family fortunes. Both women share a love of music, but in Grey Gardens, the convention of breaking into song at times emphasizes their tenuous grasps on reality.

Big Edie and Little Edie are iconic women — in an eccentric, cautionary fashion — as the subjects of Albert and David Maysles’ documentary Grey Gardens, which has drawn an enormous cult following since its release in 1975. The Edies were the aunt and first cousin, respectively, of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy, but in the early 1970s, they lived in squalor and self-delusion at the once-proud family estate, Grey Gardens. They could’ve been characters from a Tennessee Williams play, and added scandal and a hint of madness to the Kennedy family mystique.

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(Photo courtesy Chris Ozment Photography)

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