January 03, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Imaginary Friends

type
Stage
Current Status
In Season
run date
12/12/02
performer
Cherry Jones, Swoosie Kurtz
director
Jack O'Brien
author
Nora Ephron
We gave it a B

Only screenwriter (When Harry Met Sally…), director (Sleepless in Seattle), and notorious wit (at half the dinner parties in Manhattan) Nora Ephron could have written this amusing one-act satire on the vicious relationship between the late writers Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. Problem is, the show has been stretched into two acts with superfluous songs (by Marvin Hamlisch and excellent lyricist Craig Carnelia) and a few sessions’ worth of dubious psychoanalysis. Swoosie Kurtz as Hellman and the breathtaking Cherry Jones as McCarthy couldn’t be better, and when they’re going at each other with exposed claws and sharpened fangs the show’s a delight. When they’re not, it’s a puzzle.

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