Monday, June 3, 2013
Michael Strassheim, Emily Meagher, Michelle Farabaugh
Katelyn Levy, Lindsey Sullivan
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Emma Stone Is Out of 'Cabaret' Revival -
MAY 30, 2013, 5:52 PM
Emma Stone Is Out of ‘Cabaret’ Revival
The movie actress Emma Stone (“The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Help”) has pulled out of the planned
Broadway revival of “Cabaret,” in which she was expected to make her Broadway debut in early 2014 as
Sally Bowles opposite the Tony Award-winner Alan Cumming as the M.C. Ms. Stone’s publicist said on
Thursday that the actress now has scheduling conflicts with a feature film that prevent her from joining
the musical, which Roundabout Theater Company is planning to mount at one of its Broadway theaters,
Studio 54.
Ms. Stone’s withdrawal is fairly sudden: She was still attached to “Cabaret” as recently as last week,
according to two theater producers who were not working on the revival but are familiar with plans for
the show.
A spokesman for Roundabout, meanwhile, confirmed for the first time on Thursday that the “Cabaret”
revival was indeed in the works – it had yet to be officially announced – and that the Oscar-winning
director Sam Mendes would stage the revival, with Rob Marshall as co-director and choreographer. The
two men collaborated similarly on an earlier Roundabout revival of “Cabaret” that ran from 1998 to
2004. Mr. Cumming and Natasha Richardson won Tonys for their performances as the M.C. and Sally in
that production.
The theater spokesman, asked about Ms. Stone, said in a statement, “Roundabout is in the casting phase
and exploring if the production can come together with the most ideal cast.”
“Cabaret” originally opened on Broadway in 1966 and won the Tony for best musical and best score for
the composer John Kander and the lyricist Fred Ebb, among several other awards. The show has a book
by Joe Masteroff, based on writings by Christopher Isherwood.
Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company
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A Paradise and a Prison - The New York Times
June 2, 2013
A Paradise and a Prison
When Kelli O’Hara sings the word “garden,” an arid landscape blossoms into lushness. This poetic note is
sounded halfway through the first act of the generally prosy new musical “Far From Heaven,” which opened on
Sunday night at Playwrights Horizons. And all your senses come to attention, the way they do on one of those
days when an early, full-blown spring seems to have broken through winter without warning.
Up to that point in this earnest musical adaptation of Todd Haynes’s 2002 film about Eisenhower-era
repression, Ms. O’Hara has been giving a polished, efficient performance as Cathy Whitaker, a polished,
efficient housewife in the Hartford of 1957. Cathy has interrupted her daily regimen of domestic duties to have
a word with her new gardener, Raymond Deagan (Isaiah Johnson), who has returned a scarf she had lost.
Cathy is polite and self-conscious, in the way white women of her time and class often were with the black
people who worked for them. But as Raymond explains the care and feeding of plants in a song called “Sun
and Shade,” Cathy joins in with a hesitant confession: “You see, one day, I too would like to garden.”
And on that one word, “garden,” her hitherto clipped soprano expands into a voice that stretches and
shimmers. The sense of hope, of the possibilities of a world with a wider view, that pulses in this voice breaks
your heart. It’s one of those lovely moments that happens only in musicals or operas, when a single note lets
you peek into the heart of a previously concealed self.
Since “Far From Heaven” stars Ms. O’Hara, whose radiant interpretations have rejuvenated the heroines of
Broadway classics like “The Pajama Game“ and “South Pacific,” there will be other such moments in this
production. But there’s the nagging sense throughout that Ms. O’Hara, like the character she plays, is not
being allowed to express her vast potential. Too often she seems confined to two dimensions; so do the
imperfectly cast actors portraying the men in her life, Mr. Johnson as Raymond and Steven Pasquale as
Cathy’s husband, Frank, a closeted homosexual. So, for that matter, does the show as a whole.
“Far From Heaven” reunites three of the creators of the 2006 musical “Grey Gardens”: the songwriters Scott
Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics) and the director Michael Greif. Though it suffered from some
imbalances of tone, that show did wonders in finding the wounded humanity within two seemingly monstrous
women, the flamboyantly eccentric real-life Edith Bouvier Beale and her rebellious daughter, known as Little
Edie. The actresses playing them, Mary Louise Wilson and Christine Ebersole, both walked off with Tonys that
Featuring a tight and serviceable book by the industrious Richard Greenberg (whose “Assembled Parties” is up
for a Tony this year), “Far From Heaven” reverses the portrait-painting process that made much of “Grey
Gardens” so moving. Instead of finding the quiet center of a bizarre and exhibitionistic heroine, Little Edie
(Ms. Ebersole, in the second act), “Far From Heaven” seeks to elucidate the big and disturbing emotions[6/3/2013 9:04:37 AM]
A Paradise and a Prison - The New York Times
beneath Cathy’s shiny, conformist surface.
The superb film that inspired this musical accomplished this through principally cinematic means. As
conceived by Mr. Haynes, “Far From Heaven“ is an hommage to Douglas Sirk’s intense movie soap operas of
the 1950s, works in which people seemed to think, breathe and talk in Technicolor. Mr. Haynes’s approach
brought out the subtext in that style, while adhering to, and even enhancing, Sirk’s ruling aesthetic.
When the camera moved in on the face of its Cathy, a wonderful Julianne Moore, the slightest flicker of that
actress’s eyelid told you everything you needed to know about her interior life, especially with Elmer
Bernstein’s dark purple soundtrack swelling in counterpoint. The film’s visual lavishness turned a picket-fence,
compartmentalized, racially segregated America into something like a sinister fairy-tale forest; you could feel
Cathy being smothered by its excesses.
If the film gave the impression of swirling in enclosing circles, Mr. Greif’s production mostly follows a straight
line. This geometry is echoed in Allen Moyer’s skeletal modular set, which relies on Peter Nigrini’s projections
of mid-20th-century Better Homes and Gardens-style imagery to create atmosphere. Flatness is the dominant
Such a look may be appropriate to an analysis of lives ironed by rules and ritual into crisp uniformity. But as a
visual concept, it comes across as too-obvious satire. So does the portrayal of gossiping stay-at-home wives
and their hard-drinking executive husbands. These were clichés when Mr. Haynes made his movie 10 years
ago, but his skewed angle made us see them freshly. In more recent years, the television series “Mad Men“
could be said to have achieved the same thing, if by different means.
In contrast, the musical “Far From Heaven” is at its least interesting as a picture of a society. The songs here
that dissect such sour 1950s caricatures as secretary-pinching bosses and cocktail-tippling matrons (which are
given the tired punctuation of one drinker’s hiccups) are especially stale. (I did like Nancy Anderson, as Cathy’s
sly best friend, for whom Mr. Frankel has written songs that give gorgeously insinuating form to the rhythms
of everyday hypocrisy.)
The eroding marriage of Cathy and Frank somehow never unsettles us as it needs to, even when he drunkenly
humiliates her in public. Mr. Frankel has scored Frank’s parallel life as a gay man with jazzy film-noir
dissonance, and Mr. Pasquale hits the jagged notes of self-loathing required. But even in anger, he projects an
attenuated, almost ghostly presence, and when he finally walks out on Cathy, it doesn’t leave much of a
As the gardener for whom Cathy feels a forbidden affinity, Mr. Johnson also registers as slighter than he needs
to. His Raymond is as neutrally genteel and well-spoken as a docent in a museum. (In one scene, set at an art
exhibition, he opens Cathy’s eyes to the wonders of Miró.) The wistful, quietly absorbing duets of longing for
Cathy and Raymond are lovely. That they don’t stay with you has to do with the lack of chemistry between
Playing layers has never been Ms. O’Hara’s strength. What makes her one of the best performers in musicals
today is her direct, unconditionally sincere way with a song. Here, when she’s doing Cathy in superficial
housewife mode, she’s convincing, but not compelling.
It’s only when Cathy discovers how she’s really feeling, and surprises herself as she expresses those feelings in[6/3/2013 9:04:37 AM]
A Paradise and a Prison - The New York Times
song, that we perceive the glories of which her character and Ms. O’Hara are capable. Then the tight little
world of “Far From Heaven” — and I mean the show as well as the life it portrays — opens up into a briefly
glowing vision of a paradise that might have been.
Far From Heaven
Book by Richard Greenberg; music by Scott Frankel; lyrics by Michael Korie; based on the Focus
Features/Vulcan Productions motion picture written and directed by Todd Haynes; directed by Michael Greif;
sets by Allen Moyer; costumes by Catherine Zuber; lighting by Kenneth Posner; sound by Nevin Steinberg;
projections by Peter Nigrini; wig and hair design by David Brian Brown; orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin;
musical director, Lawrence Yurman; music coordination, John Miller; choreography by Alex Sanchez;
production stage manager, Judith Schoenfeld; production manager, Christopher Boll. Presented by Playwrights
Horizons, Tim Sanford, artistic director; Leslie Marcus, managing director; Carol Fishman, general manager.
At Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd Street, Clinton, (212) 279-4200, Through July 7.
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes.
WITH: J. B. Adams (Dr. Bowman/Morris Farnsworth), Marinda Anderson (Esther), Nancy Anderson (Eleanor
Fine), Elainey Bass (Sarah Deagan), Quincy Tyler Bernstine (Sybil), Justin Scott Brown (Photographer/Chase),
Alma Cuervo (Mona Lauder), Korey Jackson (Gus), Isaiah Johnson (Raymond Deagan), Jake Lucas (David
Whitaker), James Moye (Stan Fine), Kelli O’Hara (Cathy Whitaker), Steven Pasquale (Frank Whitaker),
Julianna Rigoglioso (Janice Whitaker), Sarah Jane Shanks (Connie/Doreen), Tess Soltau (Nancy), Mary Stout
(Mrs. Leacock) and Victor Wallace (Dick Dawson/Band Singer).[6/3/2013 9:04:37 AM]
Casanova Drops Some Coins in the Classical Jukebox - The New York Times
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May 31, 2013
Casanova Drops Some Coins in the Classical Jukebox
Mozart meets “Mamma Mia!”
Now that’s a sentence I bet you never expected to read. Certainly, I never expected to write it. Having done so,
I have to admit it was kind of fun, what with the quintuple alliteration and the promise of a musical concept so
high that it feels stoned out of its mind.
But that, I’m afraid, accounts for most of the pleasure I derived from “The Giacomo Variations,” the haphazard
hybrid of a show occupying City Center this weekend, with John Malkovich as its distracted-seeming star. This
improbable production is defined by its creators as “a chamber opera play.” But those of who us who wear our
brows a bit lower, as we tend to on Broadway, might prefer to call it a jukebox musical, albeit with a classical
The Giacomo of these variations is Giacomo Casanova, the 18th-century polymath whose name became a
byword for he who sleeps with everything in skirts (and occasionally pants). Written and directed by Michael
Sturminger, with music overseen by Martin Haselböck, “The Giacomo Variations” finds that old libertine (Mr.
Malkovich) toward the lonely end of an exceedingly full life, writing the memoirs that would guarantee his
immortality. Needless to say, he looks back in lust.
Just as “Mamma Mia!” shoehorns in the songs of the Swedish pop group Abba to annotate the convolutions of
a far-fetched plot, so does “The Giacomo Variations” use the hits of the platinum songwriting team Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte, the librettist on some of Mozart’s most famous operas. As performed
here by the Orchester Wiener Akademie and the young opera singers Daniel Schmutzhard and Sophie
Klussmann, these numbers, according to Mr. Sturminger’s program notes, “create a very special kind of entry
to Mozart’s fantastic opera scenes, even for people who have no regular interest in classical music.”
Mamma mia, indeed, or should I say, “O dio!,” in the manner of Da Ponte’s love-fraught characters. You’ll
meet a lot of those folks during the two and a half hours of “The Giacomo Variations,” though sometimes their
names have been changed to match those in the memories being summoned by Giacomo. For example, when
he recalls an encounter with a lovely girl who was disguised as a castrato, up pops Ms. Klussmann in breeches
to deliver “Non son piu”, the first aria sung by the impish page Cherubino, the trousers role in “The Marriage
of Figaro.”
That opera’s opening duet between Figaro and his betrothed, Susanna, is turned into what appears to be a
phallus-measuring scene, sung by Mr. Schmutzhard, as Giacomo’s young self, and Ms. Klussmann, as one of[6/3/2013 8:57:29 AM]
Casanova Drops Some Coins in the Classical Jukebox - The New York Times
his conquests. (Mr. Malkovich enlivens the action by handing a succession of increasingly large condoms to the
lovers.) The song in which the maid Despina pretends to be a doctor in “Così Fan Tutte” is used to ... Oh, never
mind. You wouldn’t believe me.
As is to be expected, arias and set pieces from “Don Giovanni” figure prominently, including the catalog of
lovers expounded by the valet Leporello. Like the Don, our Giacomo also leads a rousing chorus of “Viva la
libertad!” and Mr. Malkovich, in a wispy and weathered voice, helps conclude the show with the window
serenade. But as has often been noted by his biographers, Casanova was no Don Giovanni, whose conquests
numbered in the thousands.
For Giacomo, the number was, by his own count, a modest 120-something. And it is widely agreed by those
who have made a study of him that Giacomo was far kinder to his lovers than was the manipulative Don
Giovanni, for whom a woman was no more than a notch on his belt. (For the record, the real Casanova is
reported to have attended the Prague premiere of “Don Giovanni” in 1787 and, according to Mr. Sturminger,
had “a close friendship” with Da Ponte.)
Is this the version of Casanova we see in “The Giacomo Variations”? To be honest, I haven’t the foggiest. Mr.
Sturminger’s script, which extrapolates from, and embroiders on, the memoirs (“Histoire de Ma Vie”), is hardly
a model of clear characterization. Much of it seems to take place in a Babel-like limbo that has no first
language to call its own.
You could argue that this befits a tale of the peripatetic Casanova, who became a man without a country. Mr.
Malkovich — who memorably played another 18th-century womanizer in the 1988 film version of de Laclos’s
“Liaisons Dangereuses” — contributes to the impression by speaking in a plummy, variable accent that suggests
someone who, though born on the continent, attended English boarding schools. He also exudes that vague
state of impassioned indolence that is one of Mr. Malkovich’s acting specialties.
The four-member ensemble also includes the Lithuanian actress Ingeborga Dapkunaite, who plays (I think) a
visiting countess who may or may not be scheming to write her own unflattering biography of Casanova. Try to
ferret a coherent plot out of “The Giacomo Variations,” and you’ll just wind up with a headache.
Anyway, the point of the production appears to be less a matter of storytelling than of creating an
impressionistic portrait of erotomania in the age of Enlightenment. The designers Renate Martin and Andreas
Donhauser have created a set dominated by giant, Marie Antoinette-style dresses. Though theatergoers
unfamiliar with Mozart or Casanova may be perplexed by much of this show, the implications of its characters’
spending lots of time beneath those oversize skirts should be lost on no one.
The Giacomo Variations
Written and directed by Michael Sturminger; music concept and musical direction by Martin Haselböck; based
on opera scenes by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte; stage manager, Christiane Lutz; stage
and costume design by Renate Martin and Andreas Donhauser; art director’s assistant, Natascha Maraval;
executive director, Dean Kustra for Musikkonzept. Part of the Cherry Orchard Festival; at City Center Stage I,
131 West 55th Street, Manhattan; (800) 349-0021, Through Sunday. Running time:
2 hours 30 minutes.
WITH: John Malkovich (Giacomo I), Daniel Schmutzhard (Giacomo II), Ingeborga Dapkunaite (Elisa I) and[6/3/2013 8:57:29 AM]
Casanova Drops Some Coins in the Classical Jukebox - The New York Times
Sophie Klussmann (Elisa II).
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We’re Boosting Our Morale, Though We Hate Doing It - The New York Times
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May 31, 2013
We’re Boosting Our Morale, Though We Hate Doing It
No one much likes team-building retreats: certainly not the team, often not even the leader. But somehow
Rhea Leman, the author of the second play this season built around just such an event, still hopes that we
silent observers beyond the fourth wall might feel differently.
In Ms. Leman’s “Gorilla,” five underperforming businessmen endure ridiculous exercises intended to generate
trust, or intimacy, or whatever it is that these insipid hand-holding, blindfold-wearing, ostensibly soul-baring
drills are supposed to instill.
The workshop is run by Lillian, the company’s chilly H.R. head (Jennifer Dorr White), who has a romantic
history with one of the attendees, who in turn is openly hostile to her and to the entire task at hand. But then
most of the men in this show turn out to be generically weaselly, weak, sexist or uncooperative, repeatedly
tossing off apologies to her every time they say something vulgar or otherwise disrespectful. Their jobs are at
stake, so they’ll withstand the torture, but damned if they’ll suffer it quietly.
A few comic bits elicit laughs, including a scene where the group watches what appears to be a slide show of
someone giving birth. For the most part, though, the gags are drawn out and not particularly original.
In any case the play — which was nominated for a prestigious playwriting award in Denmark before this
production, its American and English-language premiere — aspires to be much deeper. One underling (Oliver
Burns), for example, offers a series of dramatic disclosures about problems in both his finances and his
marriage (not unrelated), though none of these revelations are particularly compelling.
To be fair, though, it’s difficult to wring much profundity from a cubicle-inspired comedy, especially one in
which six thinly developed story lines are crammed into 80 minutes.
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Satire Born in the Face of Horror - The New York Times
June 2, 2013
Satire Born in the Face of Horror
“The Last Cyclist” isn’t participatory theater in any of the usual senses. No one is called up from Row C to
answer trivia questions or dance a jig onstage. But if you’re attending this intriguing exercise in Holocaust
history, you should plan to show up in character. To appreciate what you’re going to see, you need to be not a
21st-century theatergoer but rather a prisoner at Theresienstadt, the Nazi concentration camp near Prague.
Theresienstadt, or Terezin in Czech, was unusual in that amid its deplorable conditions the Nazis allowed
some tidbits of Jewish culture and self-management. Those detained there included intellectuals, artists and
performers, and stage shows were sometimes permitted, including, in 1944, the original “Last Cyclist.” The
piece, created by Karel Svenk, was a scalding satire that made it through dress rehearsal but was shut down by
the camp’s Jewish Council of Elders out of fear that the Nazis would not be amused.
The version of the play now at the West End Theater at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew has been
“reimagined and reconstructed” (to quote the program) by Naomi Patz from sources that include the script of a
1961 production initiated by Jana Sedova, who acted in the 1944 version at Theresienstadt.
If Ms. Patz’s “Last Cyclist” is at all like the one rehearsed by Svenk (who died in 1945), it’s easy to see why the
Jewish Council stifled it. The work is a not-at-all-subtle allegory that portrays Hitler and the Nazis as insane.
As a play, “The Last Cyclist” is amateurish absurdism, and the production here (directed by Edward Einhorn)
is deliberately rickety, as it would have been in 1944. Inmates at a mental institution have taken over an
unnamed society, and they randomly proclaim that all bicyclists must be eliminated or deported to a place
called Horror Island. But the persecution doesn’t stop with current bicycle owners. Anyone who might have
had an ancestor who owned a bicycle is in danger.
A harmless shopkeeper named Abeles (Patrick Pizzolorusso) is among those who unwittingly run afoul of the
new order; he recently acquired a bicycle to try to impress the woman he loves, Manicka (Alyson Leigh
Rosenfeld). Eventually he is the title character — the last cyclist alive — and the crazies face a decision over
what to do with him.
Also prominent is a character called the Opportunist (Lynn Berg), who, preposterously, sells life insurance in
this world where life is not valued. He represents all those who enable oppression by going along.
“The lunatics have all the power these days,” he says, “and if I want to get anywhere with them I have to seem
as crazy as they are.”
Watching “The Last Cyclist,” you realize that this performance is being presented for an audience that isn’t
there. You and your fellow theatergoers are its stand-in. This isn’t theater as entertainment; it’s theater as a
chance to bear witness.[6/3/2013 9:41:05 AM]
Jean Stapleton, Who Played Archie Bunker’s Better Angel, Dies at 90 -
June 1, 2013
Jean Stapleton, Who Played Archie Bunker’s
Better Angel, Dies at 90
Jean Stapleton, the character actress whose portrayal of a slow-witted, big-hearted and submissive — up to
a point — housewife on the groundbreaking series “All in the Family” made her, along with Mary Tyler
Moore and Bea Arthur, not only one of the foremost women in television comedy in the 1970s but a symbol
of emergent feminism in American popular culture, died on Friday at her home in New York City. She was
Her agent, David Shaul, confirmed her death.
Ms. Stapleton, though never an ingénue or a leading lady, was an accomplished theater actress with a few
television credits when the producer Norman Lear, who had seen her in the musical “Damn Yankees” on
Broadway, asked her to audition for a new series. The audition, for a character named Edith Bunker,
changed her life.
The show, initially called “Those Were the Days,” was Mr. Lear’s adaptation, for an American audience, of
an English series called “Till Death Us Do Part,” about a working-class couple in east London who held
reactionary and racist views.
It took shape slowly. The producers filmed three different pilots, the show changed networks to CBS from
ABC, and Ms. Stapleton acted in a film directed by Mr. Lear, “Cold Turkey,” before “All in the Family,” as it
was finally called, was first broadcast in January 1971.
For three or four months, hampered by mixed reviews, it struggled to find an audience, but when it did, it
became one of the most popular shows in television, finishing first in the Nielsen ratings for five
consecutive seasons and winning four consecutive Emmy Awards for outstanding comedy series. Ms.
Stapleton won three Emmys of her own, in 1971, ’72 and ’78.
“All in the Family” was set in Queens. Most of the action took place in the well-worn but comfortable living
room of the Bunker family, led by an irascible loading-dock worker named Archie whose attitudes toward
anyone not exactly like him — that is, white, male, conservative and rabidly patriotic — were
condescending, smug and demonstrably foolish. Memorably played by Carroll O’Connor, Archie bullied his
wife, patronized his daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers), and infuriated and was infuriated by his live-in sonin-law, a liberal student, Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner), whom he not-so-affectionately called Meathead.
Archie employed the vocabulary of a bigot and wielded the unenlightened opinions of a man from a bygone
era who refused to admit the world was changing so much that it was no longer his naturally inherited[6/3/2013 8:48:59 AM]
Jean Stapleton, Who Played Archie Bunker’s Better Angel, Dies at 90 -
But he was essentially harmless — small-minded but not meanspirited, ignorant but not unfeeling. Critics
routinely referred to him as “a lovable bigot,” as if such a thing were possible. Edith loved him, certainly,
though he referred to her, in her presence, as a dingbat and was perpetually telling her to shut up. “Stifle
yourself,” was how he put it.
Edith was none too bright, not intellectually, anyway, which, in the dynamic of the show was the one thing
about her that invited Archie’s outward scorn. Ms. Stapleton gave Edith a high-pitched nasal delivery, a
frequently baffled expression and a hustling, servile gait that was almost a canter, especially when she was
in a panic to get dinner on the table or to bring Archie a beer.
But in Edith, Ms. Stapleton also found vast wells of compassion and kindness, a natural delight in the
company of other people, and a sense of fairness and justice that irritated her husband to no end and also
put him to shame. She was an enormously appealing character, a favorite of audiences, who no doubt saw
in the ordinariness of her life a bit of their own, and in her noble spirit a kind of inspiration.
Edith was not, like Ms. Moore’s Mary Richards, a spirited young professional seeking traction in a mostly
male workplace, nor was she like Ms. Arthur’s Maude, a brassy, clamorously insistent personality.
Rather, when the issues of “All in the Family” centered on Edith — as when she went through menopause,
beset with hilarious mood swings — she became an emblem of all housewives who felt their problems poohpoohed at home, as if nothing they ever suffered was worth the attention of their husbands and children.
“What Edith represents is the housewife who is still in bondage to the male figure, very submissive and
restricted to the home,” Ms. Stapleton, a confirmed if not necessarily outspoken feminist, said in an
interview in The New York Times in 1972, with the show still early in its life. (It ran until 1979, and a
continuation, “Archie Bunker’s Place,” that starred Mr. O’Connor but not the rest of the cast, lingered until
1983.) “She is very naïve, and she kind of thinks through a mist, and she lacks the education to expand her
Yet as the ’70s went on, and the women’s movement gained a hold in the public mind (and the proposed
Equal Rights Amendment began gaining a hold in Congress and in statehouses), Edith herself gained a
measure of strength and self-respect that deepened her character movingly.
In one episode, against Archie’s wishes, she took a volunteer job as a “Sunshine Lady,” providing company
and support for the residents of an old-age home, and when Archie tried to force her to quit because he
didn’t want her working out of the house, her explosive adamancy took him, and the show’s viewers, by
surprise, a triumph for her character that made the episode among the show’s most affecting.
“A question I am most asked by the press is, ‘Do you think Edith would support the E.R.A.?’ ” Ms.
Stapleton said in 1978, in accepting an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Emerson College in
Boston. She concluded, “Of course Edith Bunker would support ratification of the 27th Amendment to the[6/3/2013 8:48:59 AM]
Jean Stapleton, Who Played Archie Bunker’s Better Angel, Dies at 90 -
Constitution, because it is a matter of simple justice — and Edith is the soul of justice.”
She was born Jeanne Murray on Jan. 19, 1923, in Manhattan. Her father, Joseph, was an advertising
salesman; her mother, Marie Stapleton, was a concert and opera singer, and music was very much a part of
her young life.
Jeanne was a singer as well, which might be surprising to those who knew Ms. Stapleton only from “All in
the Family,” which opened every week with Edith and Archie singing “Those Were the Days,” Ms. Stapleton
lending a screechy half of the duet that was all Edith.
Ms. Stapleton herself had a long history of charming musical performances. She was in the original casts of
“Bells are Ringing” on Broadway in the 1950s and “Funny Girl,” with Barbra Streisand, in the 1960s, in
which she sang “If a Girl Isn’t Pretty” and “Find Yourself a Man.” Off Broadway in 1991, she played Julia
Child, singing the recipe for chocolate cake in the mini-musical “Bon Appétit.” On television, she sang with
the Muppets.
After high school, Ms. Stapleton worked as a typist and a secretary, taking acting classes at night. This is
also when she changed her name to her mother’s, feeling it was, as she put it once, “more distingué” than
Murray. Her older brother, Jack, had done the same. She was not, as often presumed, related to the actress
Maureen Stapleton.
Ms. Stapleton studied and performed with the American Actors’ Company, whose alumni include Horton
Foote and Agnes DeMille, and did a great deal of summer stock. She toured opposite Frank Fay in
“Harvey,” and was the understudy for Shirley Booth in the touring company of “Come Back, Little Sheba.”
Even during her television heyday, Ms. Stapleton’s schedule almost always included summer shows because
her husband, William Putch, whom she married in the late 1950s, operated the Totem Pole Playhouse in
Mr. Putch died in 1983. Ms. Stapleton is survived by their two children, Pamela and John, and
In 1953 she made her Broadway debut as the owner of an oyster bar who dispenses advice to Judith
Anderson and Mildred Dunnock in Jane Bowles’s play “In the Summer House,” directed by Jose Quintero.
In addition to her musical experience, her Broadway credits include the Eugene Ionesco farce “Rhinoceros”
(1961), and, much later, a revival of “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1987).
In the movies, Ms. Stapleton reprised her roles in “Bells Are Ringing” and “Damn Yankees,” and she
appeared in “Something Wild” (1961) as the well-meaning neighbor of a rape victim (Carroll Baker) and as
a secretary in “Klute” (1971), a thriller about a detective and a call girl starring Jane Fonda and Donald
“All in the Family” was Ms. Stapleton’s first television series, but before that she had appeared as a guest on
several shows, including “Dr. Kildare,” “My Three Sons,” “Car 54, Where Are You?” and the courtroom[6/3/2013 8:48:59 AM]
Jean Stapleton, Who Played Archie Bunker’s Better Angel, Dies at 90 -
drama “The Defenders,” in which she played the owner of a boardinghouse who accused a tenant — played
by Mr. O’Connor — of murder.
Ms. Stapleton bowed out of “All in the Family” as a series regular in 1979, but she appeared in several
episodes the next year, after the title of the show had been changed to “Archie Bunker’s Place.” The opening
episode of the second season of “Archie Bunker’s Place” dealt with the aftermath of Edith’s death.
After “All in the Family,” Ms. Stapleton purposely sought out roles that would separate her from Edith, and
in so doing she led a busy and varied, if less celebrated, performing life. She turned down a chance to star
as Jessica Fletcher, the middle-aged mystery writer at the center of “Murder, She Wrote,” which became a
long-running hit with Angela Lansbury.
But she appeared as a guest on numerous television series, including “Caroline in the City” and “Murphy
Brown”; starred with Whoopi Goldberg in a short-lived series, “Bagdad Café”; did turns in films (“You’ve
Got Mail,” “Michael”); and made several television movies, including “Eleanor: First Lady of the World”
(1982), in which she starred as Eleanor Roosevelt. The film led to a one-woman show that toured the
Perhaps the most significant work of her later life, however, was Off Broadway, where she performed in
challenging works by Mr. Foote (“The Carpetbagger’s Children”), John Osborne (“The Entertainer”) and
Harold Pinter (“Mountain Language,” “The Birthday Party”) to sterling reviews.
“She brings supreme comic obtuseness to Meg, the pathetic proprietor of a shabby seaside boarding house,”
Frank Rich of The Times wrote of Ms. Stapleton’s performance in “The Birthday Party.” Contrasting her
role with that of her “broadly drawn Edith Bunker,” Mr. Rich concluded, “Ms. Stapleton’s Meg is the kind of
spiritually bankrupt modern survivor who makes one question the value of survival.”
After “All in the Family,” it was Ms. Stapleton’s lot to live in Edith’s wake. In 1977, she was one of 45
International Women’s Year commissioners who convened the National Women’s Conference in Houston,
a federally financed gathering of 2000 delegates from the 50 states, for the purpose of helping to form
national policy on women’s issues.
On the third day of the conference, Ms. Stapleton left the commissioners’ seating area and wandered onto
the conference floor among the delegates. She was besieged.
“Look, it’s Edith!” delegates and photographers shouted. “Look, it’s Edith!”[6/3/2013 8:48:59 AM]