Bening on Broadway


Annette Bening will return to Broadway in 2008, in The Female of the Species. She hasn’t graced the boards since 1987, so this is kind of a big deal. And it does sound like a play worth pursuing:

In this new work by Australian playwright [Joanna] Murray-Smith (Honour), Bening plays Margot Mason, a feminist literary giant suffering an extreme case of writer’s block as deadline after deadline comes and goes on her next book. When a young fan arrives unexpectedly at her country home, Margot’s world slowly and comically begins to unravel as family and friends show up and debate the virtues of her bestsellers, her inconsistent world view and her decidedly unmotherly touch. (

Bening as a “feminist literary giant”? Sounds perfect. If anyone can play larger-than-life characters, it’s the woman who made Michael Douglas tolerable in The American President.

But I haven’t always been a Bening fan. Back in the mid-’80s, I — and the rest of the members of my high school drama club — saw her in a production of The Cherry Orchard in Denver. We were given a tour of the theater before the show. (How else do you recruit budding thespians?) Bening was our tour guide, and she was nothing but nasty. Not only that, she was ineffective: I somehow got lost and had to leave by skulking across the stage.

But I got soon forgot her incompetence, especially after I saw American Beauty. Bening’s unraveling real estate agent in that film is mesmerizing and unforgettable.

Too bad I can’t say the same about her dalliance with Kristin Chenoweth in Running With Scissors. What a tease of a scene that was! Bening’s worries about what her kids would think are usually cited as the reason the scene was “toned down,” but maybe Chenoweth had a hand in that too. When asked how Bening was in the kissing scene, Chenoweth said, “Very good. But I said to her, ‘You know what? Unless you’re going to take me to dinner and a movie, that’s as far as this is going.'”

The Female of the Species will have a pre-Broadway run in Los Angeles in February and March 2008. And if you’re nowhere near either of the coasts, take heart: Every book/TV show/movie/Broadway show seems to eventually get taken to the stage/big screen/small screen/page, so if it does well, odds are good it will end up on something near you. Oh, and before that happens, you’ll get the chance to see Bening and a bunch of other big names chewing up the scenery (if we’re lucky) in The Women.

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