Lauren Bacall is in a revival of a minor Noel Coward play, Waiting in the Wings, which opened in Boston last night en route to Broadway. Also in the cast: Elizabeth Wilson, Rosemary Harris, Rosemary Murphy, Barnard Hughes, Dana Ivey, Helen Stenborg . . . a lot of great older actresses and actors. The premise: a bunch of retired actresses together in a sort of retirement home, with Harris as the grandest of grande dames and Bacall as her major rival.

I am in love with Lauren Bacall, and always will be, but I am trying to remember whether she could ever really act in films. At this time, in this place, she cannot act. She is particularly badly suited for competing with Rosemary Harris on stage; in fact she is giving the worst performance on that stage by a country mile, and it's pretty embarrassing.

The production also suffers, fairly seriously, from some directorial indecisiveness about accents. Often British plays in America are performed in a sort of hoity-toity midAtlantic dialect which isn't quite English but can pass. This works better with some actors than with others; this ensemble is all over the map. Except for Bacall, who sounds exactly like Lauren Bacall.

One last difficulty: believing that Lauren Bacall is old enough to retire to a home. Uh, sorry, no. The newspapers say that she is seventy-five years old. That is even harder to believe. In fact, it's absolutely and completely impossible. They made that up. Fifty if she's a day. Do I hear forty?

OCC: Lauren Bacall

Les Phillips

CineScene 1999