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Theater review: "The People in the Picture," 1.5 stars

The People in the Picture

The People in the Picture

The People in the Picture
1.5 stars

Any show with Donna Murphy in it is worth seeing. But unfortunately for audiences, she's currently shackled with the slow, schmaltzy and cliche-filled star vehicle "The People in the Picture."

Murphy plays Raisel Rabonowitz, a 79-year-old Jewish grandmother reminiscing about her former life as a Yiddish theater star in pre-war Poland.

In the 1930s, she and the Warsaw Gang perform in numerous small villages before the Nazis rise to power. In 1977, she is telling her stories to her fascinated granddaughter. Meanwhile, her acting companions from the old days, though all dead, interact and chat with her.

Much of the plot revolves around the tension between Raisel and her daughter Red, a divorced TV writer who is frustrated with her mother's medical issues. Secrets regarding the daughter's birth and upbringing are eventually revealed in Act 2.

The show comes off as an unsuccessful attempt to mix the grimness of the Holocaust with light, hackneyed humor. Most of it drags endlessly, especially a death scene at the end.

Nevertheless, Murphy manages to shine. Her idiosyncratic, razor-sharp comic delivery and powerhouse voice are on full display as she constantly switches back and forth to portray both her younger and older self.

The rest of the cast has spirit but doesn't register much of an impression.

If you go: "The People in the Picture" plays at Studio 54 through June 19. 254 W. 54th St., 212-719-9393,

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