Critics Laud Calista; Judi's View On Hold

There may be a Chapstick shortage in New York, the way critics are kissing up to Calista Flockhart.

The featherweight actress's off-Broadway play Bash opened last night, and while reviews for the three-act production and Flockhart's co-stars varied, opinions of Calista were as positive as a proton.

In "Medea Redux," the New York Times says, "Flockhart, looking raw and childlike with her face stripped of obvious makeup, achieves an aching eloquence through the simplest gestures, drawing the back of her wrist over her eyes or tapping her finger on an unlit cigarette."

The set for "Redux" is the interrogation room of a police station, and Flockhart is a young woman who was seduced, impregnated, and abandoned at age 13 by a high-school teacher. "Using her fragility to mask the terrible rage beneath the surface, Flockhart moves steadily from childish innocence to shattering tragedy," says the New York Daily News.

Flockhart couples with The Object of My Affection leading man Paul Rudd in "A Gaggle of Saints," which depicts two college sweethearts recounting a weekend trip to New York her recollection focused on a ritzy party, and his on a violent attack on a homosexual. The News denounces "Saints," saying, "The heavy-handed irony doesn't justify the graphic depiction of terrible violence." The Associated Press begs to differ, calling the act "the most effective of the three pieces pulled off by Flockhart, here buoyantly girlish, and Rudd, who finds the right degree of chilly banality to describe the man's evil deeds."

Bash's second monologue, "Iphigenia in Orem," features Ron Eldard (ER cast member and boyfriend of the hospital drama's Julianna Margulies) as a Mormon businessman who makes a cruel "calculated risk" regarding the life of his baby daughter.

"Eldard initially appears to be the ultimate boring, logorrheic businessman whom you try to avoid sitting next to on airplanes," reports the Times, "[and he] never sheds that persona, which makes the exquisitely staggered revelations of his story all the more disturbing."

The play, written by Neil LaBute and based on Biblical and Grecian tragedies, runs through July. To publicize her return to the New York stage, Flockhart is scheduled to appear on Late Show With David Letterman July 1, the News reports. Let's hope Flockhart doesn't stand up the gap-toothed host again, as she did in May.

In other Broadway news, Tony winner Judi Dench has temporarily left the production of Amy's View in order to be with her ill husband in England. Michael Williams, also an actor, is understood to be suffering from a severe pulmonary infection, according to Variety.

"I am devastated to disappoint anyone who came to see me in the play," Dench said Thursday, "but because of the circumstances, I am unable to perform."

Dench is expected to return Tuesday, and that can't be too soon for producers Variety reports that attendance is already down nearly 80 percent.