The Ticket

‘The Parisian Woman’ — a Washington chess game


Wanted: New work, original, and of the moment. That’s all we ask.

Sometimes we get lucky. Take “The Parisian Woman,” very much up to the Washington moment, and loaded with talent.

Uma Thurman makes her Broadway debut. Pam MacKinnon directs. Beau Willimon, the creator of “House of Cards,” wrote the play. The supporting cast and designers are first-rate.

The play is a tango of power and statehood, full of saucy moves.
Here are the ruthless, the powerful, and the power-hungry, complete with a triple-whammy of gossip, blackmail and sexual intrigues. By the way, these high and mighty folks are but a quick text or two over to the Oval Office.

Don’t get too close. We’ve got a fast crowd here. Some might proclaim “The Parisian Woman” as the real deal — an inside look at those ballyhooed corridors of power.

Indeed, the play seems to have been written last week. We recognize the name-dropping and all the contexts of a wobbly regime.
But the truth here — often the case in Washington — is something far different.

And the truth is not the least bit pleasant.

For “The Parisian Woman” embraces the flaws of the 45th president and his administration. Not only do its characters revel in manipulations, deceit and bluster, the writing and the production itself comes off as shallow, uninspired and soapy.

One could argue that this is appropriate. Let content reflect form, and vice-versa. The characters are skin-deep and fickle. And there is a certain satisfaction in watching how Thurman’s character, Chloe, plays the others to reach her objective. She is always a few moves ahead.

The role seems a natural for Thurman. She plays it with just enough charisma to gain traction on stage, but Thurman appears tentative and adrift, the flirty charmer on an off-day.

The other characters flock to her to declare their love and dependence. Actors Marton Csokas and Blair Brown are standouts. We feel their dismay as illusions vanish.

But with so little magnetism from its star, and a host of clunky production choices, the play never elevates itself into the juicy dish it aspires to be.

Jane Greenwood’s costumes for Thurman are bewildering, especially the industrial-strength blue jeans in the opening scene. Derek McLane’s uninspired set design gets busy with Darrel Maloney’s projections for a lively electronic scrim — to cover the scene changes. In these intervals, text and sound splinter the void, as if to conjure some newsy excitement.

But no drumbeat can restore this hollow shell of greedy, mean-spirited cynicism.
For this alone, “The Parisian Woman” is completely up to the Washington moment.