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Recalling Old Sorrows, And Overcoming Them

By Marsden Epworth, Lakeville Journal


Lynn Redgrave was barely noticed by Sir Michael Redgrave. The actor. Her father.

In "Shakespeare for My Father," a play Lynn Redgrave wrote about growing up in this illustrious theater family, she searches her father's journals after his death, particularly the ones from 1943, seeking notice of her birth.

No notice taken.

Not much notice later either, for Lynn is neither beautiful like her sister, Vanessa — she likens herself to a glum mushroom — nor forward and self possessed like Corin, her brother. Nor is she "colorful, glorious, outrageous" like theatrical Redgrave's past. She is anemic. Shy. And miserable.

In 1993 she wrote this play about growing up plain and yearning to be noticed in a household of firecrackers.

But something snapped when she was offered an acting job at age 16, before she finished her theater training. She called her father to see what he thought about her taking the role. "No," he roared. She was so angry she took the job and, in time, of course, became a star herself.

The most entertaining parts of the play are recollections, some delightfully gosipy, about Richard Burton, Maggie Smith, Dame Edith Evans, and how people applauded Sir Michael as he entered the Savoy Grill after a performance in London. He died of Parkinson's disease soon after.

Lynn Redgrave performed her one-person play, toured with it and received fine reviews. And though Susan Pettibone is a good actor, and the production, directed by Jane Farnol at New Milford's TheatreWorks, is a loving one, the work is so intimate, so personal and depends so much on our memories of these people, it seems to be missing something essential: Lynn Redgrave herself, who died last year.

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