Falco Drives ‘Nurse Jackie’ to Stage Snoozeland: Review

We expect high-powered intensity from Edie Falco as Martha, a woman who abruptly abandons her loving husband and 22-year-old daughter, in “The Madrid.”

Falco is best known as acerbic, drug-addled Nurse Jackie in the popular Showtime series and before that as the volatile wife gutsy enough to push back against Tony Soprano.

She regularly brings her remarkable gifts and star power to New York stages like the Manhattan Theatre Club, where “Nurse Jackie” writer Lee Flahive’s play is having its world premiere.

Of all the ingredients “The Madrid” is missing, however, intensity ranks first among them in Leigh Silverman’s atypically enervating production.

It’s evident early that subtlety may not be Flahive’s strong suit: Martha’s first act of departure is from the 5-year-olds in her kindergarten class, in the middle of a lesson about families.

When she splits for points unknown, husband John (John Ellison Conlee) and daughter Sarah (Phoebe Strole) begin disposing of their worldly goods (rather too quickly, I thought).

Though bummed out, they begin arranging a yard sale, giving their annoyingly attentive neighbors Becca (Heidi Schreck) and Danny (Christopher Evan Welch) first dibs. Also figuring in the mourning-but-not-quite over Mom’s disappearance is Martha’s blunt, willful mother Rose (the indomitable Frances Sternhagen, walking off with the show).

Beanbag Chair

Martha hasn’t gone far. She’s in The Madrid, a rundown building nearby, in a grungy apartment (nicely realized by set designer David Zinn) meagerly appointed with a beanbag chair, a fold-up bed and little else.

She shows up at the Starbucks where Sarah works, and they begin meeting secretly. Martha’s reasons for leaving, when she finally divulges them, are anti-climactic. Inertia may be to blame: The actors, Falco included, speak their lines as if they were still learning them. But I suspect that both the halting delivery and the deliberate pacing are intentional, however elusive the intent remained.

Composer Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”) provides abrasive music between torpid scenes. By the end of the evening, I was happy to abandon the lot of them.

Through April 21 at New York City Center Stage I, 131 W. 55th St. Information: +1-212-581-1212; http://www.nycitycenter.org. Rating: *1/2

What the Stars Mean:

*****  Fantastic
****   Excellent
***    Good
**     So-So
*      Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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