On Visiting Grey Gardens

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Little Edie at Grey Gardens in 1975. Photo: Getty Images

We recently saw the new Broadway production of Grey Gardens, which opens Thursday night, and, without stepping on the formidably critical toes of our esteemed colleague Jeremy McCarter, we should say we liked it quite a lot. But we're also forced to confess we'd never seen the famous 1975 Maysles brothers documentary of the same name, which brought the detailed Hamptons Gothic of Big and Little Edie Beale's existence to a popular audience, and which subsequently became a cult — and camp — classic. (We know; the omission surprises us as much as it does you.) That oversight, however, was finally rectified last night, when we noticed Turner Classics was broadcasting the Maysles film. Now, then, a public-service announcement: Go see the documentary before you see the show. It's not that the Broadway Grey Gardens doesn't stand on its own; it does. And it's not that Christine Ebersole isn't impressive as Little Edie; she is. But to see Little Edie in 1975, and to see how Ebersole channels her onstage — well, wow. It's a revelation we wish we'd had last week at the Walter Kerr, not last night on the couch.

(And it wouldn't hurt to read Gail Sheehy's "A Return to Grey Gardens" in this week's magazine. Turns out Gail befriended Little Edie back in the old days, and the piece gives, among other things, a valuable window on what in the musical is true and what isn't so much.)

A Return to Grey Gardens [NYM]