Review: Summer, 1976

There could hardly be a more artistically stellar cast for a two-hander than Laura Linney and Jessica Hecht. Playwright David Auburn brings his usual subtlety and nuance to this tale of a friendship formed over the titular season, between two neighbors in Columbus, Ohio, whose daughters love playing together.

Diana (Linney) a snobbish painter, and Alice (Hecht) the kooky wife of an economics professor, start out not particularly liking each other, but as they spend time together find unexpected similarities. There are side references to the bicentennial celebrations that were everywhere that year, but that is really window dressing for this small-scale story.

Auburn has the two women convey the plot more by fourth wall-breaking storytelling than actual depiction of events, although Linney does play Alice’s husband at a couple of points. It helps a great deal that Linney and Hecht, aside from being two of our best stage actors, have a very easy chemistry with each other.

The storyline could be described a couple of ways: intimately observed, or, more negatively, somewhat thin. There’s truth to both. Auburn plumps it up a bit with misdirection, showing the two to be unreliable narrators, something they admit to when they eventually come around to the truth. A nice twist.

Both women are attracted to the graduate student who is slowly painting Alice’s house over the course of the season. There’s a twist there as well, one of the play’s best, which I refuse to spoil. Perhaps the most convincing element of the show is its delicate insight into the unexpected ways friendships evolve, and the ways in which friends grow apart. Director Daniel Sullivan as usual mostly gets out of the way of the talent he’s working with, in the most artful way. Overall, it is a decent set of parallel character studies, made richer by the amazing cast. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

For more more about Jonathan Warman’s directing works, see


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