Friday is opening night for a naughty 1950’s play by renowned writer Maxwell Anderson. ‘Bad Seed’, the last Broadway success before his death, is a devilish mother/daughter tale of secrecy and murders. Anderson wrote numerous plays, and movies including ‘Death Takes a Holiday’, ‘Joan of Arc’, and Hitchcock’s ‘The Wrong Man’. A masterpiece play, adapted from William March’s long-awaited novel “The Bad Seed”, it ran on Broadway five months and was later made into two movies. Studios changed the ending in the first version, because the 1956 audience could not accept such an appalling conclusion where the villain … (no spoilers), and it was nominated for four Academy Awards- including ‘Best Director’ for British Mervyn LeRoy.
Having been asked to audition by the director of this 2014 incarnation, I watched the second, color version of the movie, with David Carradine among the cast, dressed and practiced my best Southern accent, then dutifully showed up to try out for a part. Producer/director, Henry Brewer, immediately offered me the role of the mother and sent me home with a copy of the play. Mrs. Christine Bravo Penmark is a woman, a character, I strongly did not like. I was repulsed by her, and because of this intense response, I knew this was going to be a challenge, a good opportunity to stretch me beyond bounds of comfort. One of her first lines is “I’m not very self-sufficient.”; Completely not me, and this ‘weakness’ is probably what turned me off to start.
Neither of the movies does justice to the play, something is lost even though Anderson is responsible for the screenplay. Much of the Broadway cast was in the original black and white movie, but I turned it off half-way through supposedly due to a distaste for the acting style of the time, with one exception- the actress who plays Mrs. Daigle- Eileen Heckart, who won a Golden Globe for her performance. My undertaking thrills and terrifies me, because the part is grande- the tale truly is twisted and violent- and the emotions are quite extreme. Breathing life into fully experiencing these six days of Christine’s life is well worth all the work.
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