Performances will be 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Jan. 14–29, and 3 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 16 and 23, at the Jedlicka Performing Arts Center.
From Lombard Spectator, by Renee Tomell, on January 10, 2011
‘Grey Gardens’ musical inhabited by colorful characters at Jedlicka Performing Arts Center in Cicero
Fascination with the tragic decline of Edith Bouvier Beale (Big Edie) and her daughter, Little Edie, aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, first inspired a mid-’70s documentary. Dialogue from that documentary was incorporated in the Tony Award-winning 2006 musical, which will be performed in Cicero this month. It stars Mary Nigohosian of Batavia, and Mary Hobein of Woodridge, who takes on the role of Big Edie in later life. Hobein talks about the musical “Grey Gardens,” which was the name of the family’s oceanfront estate in East Hampton, N.Y.
Explain the story.
These women are quite a psychological study. They were both New York debutantes (and) quite wealthy. Big Edie always wanted... to be an opera singer, but the high society women of those times were not supposed to go on stage. Her father (and husband) thoroughly disapproved. She was frustrated in the main thing that she wanted to do. (Then) her husband... left her. (When) Big Edie continued (her lavish) lifestyle... her father... cut her off except for a small trust. Little Edie... attempted a stage career, but she was a flop. Her mother pressured her into moving back home.
What happened to the house?
(They) couldn’t keep the property up. They had countless cats as pets. Since they weren’t taking care of matters, the raccoons moved in too.
What is your character like?
Big Edie is portrayed as wanting to be center stage all the time. She is deserted by all the men in her life. The only (one) she can get to stick by her is her daughter. (She supposedly interfered) with her daughters’ romances so that her daughter wouldn’t leave her. In our play, she’s portrayed as being terrified of being alone; that’s why she hangs onto Edie so hard. Their relationship is really dysfunctional. My character is pretty nasty; she really manipulates Little Edie. They were very reclusive. (Yet,) they open up to these (documentary) filmmakers. We play directly to the audience, as if they were the filmmakers (who are) not really mentioned.
The first act captures life at the estate in its 1941 hey-day, and the second picks up in 1973, when neighbors report shockingly deplorable living conditions.
My reaction to Little Edie (in the documentary) was (she was) nuttier than a fruit cake. (She said,) ‘It’s hard to draw the line between the past and the present.’ She told lots of tall tales. She and her mother have their delusions of grandeur.
What do you like about taking on Big Edie?
My own daughter will appreciate me more. I love (portraying) outrageous characters. She’s totally different from any role I’ve ever played.