Sunday, May 12, 2013
Christina Crawford: Surviving Mommie Dearest
A multi-media stage production surrounding its narrator (Joan Crawford's first adopted daughter, in case you were born yesterday), I could liken it to the recent Beyond the Beehive, Ronnie Spector's stage show, inasmuch as both shows deal with victims of abuse giving voice to their experiences amongst projected images and videos. The differences are that Phil Spector continues to harass his ex-wife through lawyers, even while in prison. Christina, who claims she was abused as a child by her movie-star mother, has never found forgiveness or made peace with a woman who died 36 years ago. Ronnie's suffered abuses are only part of her story and she sings classic rock hits, there are joyous rare videos from her collection, and she ends her story in triumph. She is backed by a live band and she is frequently in motion. Christina is seated throughout her act, occasionally standing stiffly in place, as home movies, clips and images are projected behind her, and monotony sets in. Too large a part of this live act is given over to a filmed documentary.
Ms Crawford suffered a near-fatal stroke in 1981, from which she has recovered. She implied it may have been caused by the reaction to her book, the movie version of her book, and by Joan, of course.
During the audience Q & A, I was able to ask if, after all these years, CC might still find wire hangers traumatic after her famous experience documented in the tell-all book. I thought it was a fair question. Christina glowered, imperious in a way that might have made Joan proud, and simply said: "Next question."
How rude! Dissed by the real-life Christina who talks about how she hates the movie version of her book, hates Faye Dunaway, hates her mother; hates, hates, hates! She has a new, revised edition of Mommie Dearest (the book) to sell you (in fact, the show plays like a long infommercial for it). Her repressed memories include Joan Crawford trying to force her hand onto a flame on the stove top, and her recollection of how Joan murdered husband Alfred Steele. Maybe the last long-repressed memory was actually of Bette Davis in The Little Foxes?
The anniversary of Joan Crawford's death is May 10. Surviving opened on May 8. It closes today, on Mother's Day. Coincidence? Or mocking cruelty?
"Tacky" is a word that pops up for me regarding this mess of a theatrical presentation. "Amateurish," "opportunistic" and "cold-blooded" might be others. Christina Crawford has made a career out of trashing her movie-star mother. And, though I believe the gilded homes of the rich and famous are not exempt from child abuse, I certainly don't take Tina's vitriolic trashography at face value. Bring me the axe!