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Carving up ‘Mommie’ again
By FRANK SCHECK
Last Updated: 1:24 AM, May 9, 2013
Posted: 10:35 PM, May 8, 2013
SURVIVING MOMMIE DEAREST
Snapple Theater Center, 1627 Broadway, at 50th Street; 212-921-7862. Through Sunday. Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.
Now that she’s 73, Christina Crawford might want to resolve her mommy issues. That’s the main feeling evoked by “Surviving Mommie Dearest,” a bizarre show in which Crawford rehashes the abuse she suffered at the hands of her adoptive movie-star mother, Joan. Then again, we’ve seen and heard most of this before, in both the book and film “Mommie Dearest” — the latter of which, thanks to Faye Dunaway’s over-the-top performance as Joan, has become a camp treasure.
“The theater has always been magic to me,” Crawford announces early on, but you wouldn’t know it from this multimedia hodgepodge. It basically consists of a screening of a DVD of a shoddily produced 71-minute documentary, followed by a brief Q&A session with the audience. Whether this is worth up to $40 a ticket is debatable. Then again, Mother’s Day is just around the corner — and some folks just can’t get enough dish.
Christina Crawford, with her legendary mother, Joan Crawford, in 1943.
Christina Crawford today in her own play.
Providing a brief commentary as her life plays out on the screen behind her — the seemingly glamorous Hollywood childhood, her short-lived acting career, her quiet life today in northern Idaho — Crawford suggests you “fasten your emotional seat belt” before she recounts such episodes as the time her adoptive mother literally tried to choke her to death.
Then again, attempted murder pales beside the sin of trying to replace your own daughter in a soap opera while that daughter is hospitalized with a debilitating illness.
All told, it’s a tawdry string of allegations, augmented by clips from never before seen home movies from the ’40s. Was Joan really responsible for the untimely death of her fourth husband, Pepsi-Cola CEO Alfred Steele? Who knows. But it’s fun to hear her daughter coyly describe “the time of the uncles,” when a string of men came calling on Joan after one of her divorces. These included actor Yul Brynner, whose shirtless appearance at their front door filled young Christina with terror.
On her decision to go to the funeral parlor to view her mother’s body, Crawford jokes, “I had to know that she was really dead.”
At the Q&A the other day, she was asked how her revelations have tarnished the memories fans have of her mother’s work.
“It’s not my problem,” she replied. True enough, but that doesn’t make it any easier to endure this vanity production.