Entertainment & Arts

Vanessa Redgrave wins rave reviews in Eisenberg play

Vanessa Redgrave and Jesse Eisenberg in The Revisionist
Image caption The play runs at New York's intimate Cherry Lane theatre until 31 March

Vanessa Redgrave has won rave reviews for her performance in Jesse Eisenberg's new play The Revisionist.

The veteran British actress, 76, stars opposite Eisenberg in the Off-Broadway production which premiered on Thursday.

Ben Brantley, of the New York Times, said Redgrave's performance "reminds us why she's considered the greatest actress of her generation".

The Hollywood Reporter's review called the actress "mesmerising" adding, "stage acting doesn't get much better".

"Watching a magnificent stage animal like Vanessa Redgrave burrow deep into a complex new role in an intimate Off-Broadway space seating fewer than 200 is a rare luxury for theatre lovers," wrote David Rooney.

The Revisionist, Eisenberg's second play, focuses on a young American writer who visits his older Jewish cousin - a holocaust survivor - in Poland, in the hope that a change of scene will dislodge his writer's block.

He rudely rebuffs her attempts at friendship, but over time the secrets and suffering of her life force him to reflect on his own spoiled attitudes.


Eisenberg, 29, received largely positive reviews for his work, which is directed by Kip Fagan, and follows his first play Asuncion in 2011.

Rooney called it "a rewarding account of cultural collision that yields unexpected reflections on the centrality of family in our lives".

Elysa Gardner, writing for USA Today, praised Eisenberg's "wry ear and... knack for unsentimental poignance [sic] that keep Revisionist emotionally compelling".

But Entertainment Weekly's Thom Geier called the ending "abrupt" and "implausible", an opinion echoed by the Hollywood Reporter - while Newsday called the play an "enormous waste of opportunity".

Eisenberg, who remains best known for playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, "is credible and watchable" on stage, argues Brantley.

"He doesn't shrink or vanish in Ms Redgrave's presence, which is no mean feat," he said. "There's a cracklingly ambivalent chemistry between them."

But it is "the great Vanessa Redgrave" that dominates the reviews, in what Brantley deems her best performance since her Tony-winning turn in A Long Day's Journey Into Night a decade ago.

"It's a testament to Ms Redgrave's magic that even when Maria is at her most closed and secretive, we sense between the lines something formidable and complete unto itself."

Redgrave, best known for her roles in films such as Howards End and TV's Nip/Tuck, won an Oscar for her role in Julia in 1978.

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