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31 January 2009 @ 07:15 pm
Desire Under the Elms - Reviews  
I've put together some excerpts from different Desire Under the Elms reviews about Carla's performance. If you like to read the whole reviews, follow the links above the quotes.

Newcity Stage

Gugino, a beautiful and sexy actress who resembles a young Barbara Hershey yet sounds like Judy Davis—thanks to a husky vocal instrument that makes full use of its earthy chest tones—plays her role like it's a warm-up to take on Maggie the Cat. (Her feral ferocity is evident from the moment she first rubs the palm of her hand—and eventually herself—upon the floors and furniture of the farmhouse.)

TimeOut Chicago

Still to be marveled at in this new revival is its trio of central performances. The thrilling Gugino, playing a trophy wife sold to one man but drawn to his son, gives an aching and erotic performance. Glamourlessly haggard Dennehy and feral Schreiber, as the Greek figures vying to fertilize her, are not wasted either, but Gugino’s performance will be the talk.


As the young wife Abbie, Carla Gugino brings an excellent combination of spunk and neediness. She's a survivor in a world that punishes softness, and yet she's also vulnerable. When she falls for Ephraim's youngest son Eben (Pablo Schreiber), she falls hard, making her willing to do whatever it takes to sustain that love.

Chicago Sun-Times

Broadway veteran Gugino is absolutely sensational — petite, dark and balletic, she truly takes on the quality of the snake in the garden, using her body to exceptional effect to suggest Abbie’s boundless willfulness. Dennehy easily taps into the unmovable, self-made tyrant whose struggle for survival has robbed him of compassion. And he brings a creepy sense of foreboding to the scene in which he tells Abbie she sends a chill over him, and that he would prefer sleeping with the cows.

Chicago Reader

Gugino—who makes her first appearance in an anachronistic red cocktail dress and purple heels—is drop-dead gorgeous, sed­uctive without being cartoonish. But there are times when she, too, seems to be search­ing for that defining note. Abbie, like Eben, longs to escape a life of abuse and overwork, and Gugino is at her best when she's expos­ing the character's fears and needs—as in the consummation scene, or during a passage of anguished denial toward the end of the play. But the harder, more nakedly acquisitive aspects of Abbie—her "crushing, jealous absorption"—are mostly unconvincing. (The exception is a wordless moment when, upon first entering Ephraim’s house, she stretches her upper body out over the kitchen table in an attitude of perfect proprietary confidence.) One suspects that her performance, and Dennehy's, will find additional nuances over the run.

Chicago Tribune

As in Martin Sherman's play "Bent," the farm men cart these stones from one arid place to a pointless other, lending the play a Beckettian quality and contrasting utterly with the lithesome sexuality of Carla Gugino, who, in what could be a career-making performance, plays the woman desired and possessed by two generations of inadequate Cabot men.
As the aptly named Abbie Putnam, Gugino is already cooking with gas. Falling out of designer Ana Kuzmanic's delightfully hapless dress, splaying herself out on a table, fighting with the brittleness of a woman with one last chance to escape a puritanical hell, it's an arresting and courageous performance that oozes sex but also suggests the kind of steely alienation that can make sense of a mercurial character driven to such a pass. Or rather passes.

From the Ledge

But this production ultimately belongs to the dazzling Carla Gugino as the selfish, grasping, seductive, guile-filled, love-starved Abbie. I've seen her only in episodes of her brief tenure in the early 2000s sitcom Spin City, so I was totally unprepared to be blown away by her. Gugino commands the stage (which is quite the feat given that Dennehy and those gargantuan boulders plus that hanging house is competing with her constantly) whenever she's on it and she plays both big and bold, and subtle and intimate, a Turandot with both grand gestures and intricately detailed emotions. The way she performs the story's climax - hunched shoulders, punched-in face, quiet presence- allows the audience to understand that Abbie has committed a crime without us actually seeing it happen onstage.

Edge Chicago

Schreiber and Gugino bring real sex appeal to the stage, filling the space with a dual sense of sexual possibility and calamity. Gugino, in particular, is a real stunner ably portraying a sympathetic, complex character that could have very easily become simply a villain or, worse, a gold-digging cliché in the hands of a lesser actress.

The New York Times

The piercing look of Abbie Putnam, his father's new bride, is hard too. But there are excitement, curiosity and a fierce hope of salvation in it as well. Time freezes; fate descends in all its awful majesty on a squalid kitchen in 19th-century New England; and a significant but mostly unloved drama by a great American playwright bursts into gripping, immediate life.
This shivery moment, this seemingly endless look of doom, comes courtesy of two of today's foremost young stage actors, Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber, whose performances here transcend by some measure even the excellent work they have done in New York (Ms. Gugino in "Suddenly Last Summer" and "After the Fall," Mr. Schreiber in "Awake and Sing!" and the Christopher Shinn play "Dying City").
The play's molten emotional core, in any case, is the harrowing story of Eben and Abbie's consuming passion. And on this score the production easily transcends any weaknesses. When Abbie confesses to Eben the grim lengths to which she has gone to secure his love, and is repulsed by him, Ms. Gugino displays a depth and range of expression that I cannot imagine any other actress achieving with such blazing honesty and wrenching truth. She is simply magnificent.


Gugino plays to vulnerable perfection a woman past the prime of her dreams – desperate to get a toehold of safe haven by settling for the vulgarity of one rather than being used up and devoured into chattel servitude of the anonymous many.


But Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber, playing the illicit lovers, create the magic here. Each reveals a hungry neediness while displaying layers of pain, apprehension and suspicion that forge fateful barriers.
Gugino is a softer Abbie than O'Neill aficionados might expect, and in my opinion, that deepens the final tragedy.
We understand the sharp edges Abbie originally wields, and Gugino brilliantly transforms the character at a gut level without much surface acting. The end result is devastating.

A special thank you goes to waverider56 for providing these two scans: