This is your history, America. Why are you so careless with it?” asks a disapproving Brit near the start of Terrence McNally’s new play, Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams. Since he’s referring to an abandoned theater rich with artifacts, lovers of drama will have to admire the sentiment. Then they will have to wonder what in the name of precious metaphors McNally is trying to do in this tangled play.
Lou, a children’s theater director, has been brought to the abandoned space by his partner (who is not his wife), where they are joined by her daughter and other Dramatically Useful Guests. Their intertwining relationships are smudgy, uninvolving. Director Michael Morris adds to the fog, failing to find or sustain a consistent tone; some very talented actors look lost up there.
Nathan Lane brings his unshakable appeal to the role of Lou, but the evening belongs to Marian Seldes. She plays Annabelle Willard, the dying theater owner who might give him the place, as a deluxe Cruella De Vil, a terminal case with a martini that forever needs topping off. In the midst of a forgettable show, it’s a memorable performance—funny and mean, regal and crude, impassioned but effortless: all in a night’s work for the inimitable Dame Marian.