The Lady in the Van
Adapted by playwright Alan Bennett from his own memoir, The Lady in the Van offers more fourth wall-breaking narrative devices than a Tarantino fever dream, but since we’re never that invested in the characters, it doesn’t add up to anything but a self-satisfied distraction. Maggie Smith excels in the title role, playing a cantankerous eccentric and possible fugitive going by the name of Mary Shepherd, a homeless woman who takes up residence in Alan’s driveway, but the main character here is actually the bookish and withdrawn Alan (Alex Jennings). Beyond the inherently icky premise of framing a story around a destitute and dying woman teaching a privileged jerk to be slightly less of a privileged jerk, the character of Alan never fully comes to life. He comes to see Mary as his “mother’s derelict counterpart,” but our relation to Alan and his mommy issues is always more assumed than felt. D.B.