The role of Vivian Bearing, the acerbic John Donne scholar dying of ovarian cancer and ravaged by experimental chemotherapy in Wit, is a terrifically difficult one in that it requires a very broad emotional range—from wry detachment to mortal pathos—but at the same time it necessitates sustaining a single note almost from curtain to curtain: It is only in the play’s closing scenes that Professor Bearing’s cold and cerebral remoteness is breached by the agonizing final facts of life. Cynthia Nixon seems an unlikely choice for a role associated with Emma Thompson; though she had a distinguished stage career before Sex and the City made her a household name, there is a kind of insubstantiality about Miss Nixon—an Ophelia, not a Lady Macbeth. And she seemed merely competent, and even a trifle unsteady, in Clare Booth Luce’s The Women. Whether she has summoned some previously unknown steel or has been...

 

A Message from the Editors

Since 1982, The New Criterion has nurtured and safeguarded our delicate cultural inheritance. Join our family of supporters and secure the future of civilization.

Popular Right Now