When film and television stars make the decision to forgo their normally huge paychecks in order to slum it on Broadway for a few weeks, there’s always one thing weighing in the back of their minds: Exactly how much abuse are they going to take from the New York Times theater critic and celebrity underminer Ben Brantley? Over the last year and some change, Brantley has gleefully reveled in digging his sharp claws into the mediocre work of everyone from Jude Law to Catherine Zeta-Jones. So it was with particular interest that we scoured his review of Gregory Mosher’s production of Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge this morning, as we could barely sleep last night wondering what sort of bitchy grenades he would throw Broadway neophyte Scarlett Johansson’s way.
Well, we hate to disappoint you so early on a Monday morning, but in a shocking twist, Brantley actually had good things to say about the “seeming effortlessness” of the work of Mrs. Ryan Reynolds (but he still managed to work some potshots at other celebrities in)!
In recent years Broadway’s stages have been littered with dim performances from bright screen stars, including Julia Roberts and Katie Holmes. Film actresses as famous as Ms. Johansson tend to create their own discomfort zones onstage, defined by the mixed expectations of fans and skeptics. I was definitely aware of that zone when I saw Keira Knightley in “The Misanthrope” in London recently.
By comparison, Ms. Johansson melts into her character so thoroughly that her nimbus of celebrity disappears. Her Catherine is a girl on the cusp of womanhood, feeling her way down familiar paths that have suddenly been shrouded in unfamiliar shadows.
Color us stunned! We can only hope that the kindness Brantley showed Johansson paves the way for other buxom starlets to hit the Great White Way. Britney Spears, we’re talking to you.