Israel Horowitz, age 75, has made his directorial debut with “My Old Lady,” adapting his 2002 play about a beaten-down, thrice-divorced 60-ish New Yorker, Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline), who inherits a Parisian apartment from his estranged father. To his dismay, the place is occupied by a tenant, a 92-year-old Englishwoman, Mathilde (Maggie Smith) and her daughter, Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas). Because of a complex French real estate system called viager, she can resist eviction and collect monthly payments from Mathias until her death.
Horowitz does a smooth job of keeping the action focused without seeming stagebound – bringing the streets and lights of Paris into the picture certainly helps – and the performers make the best of their best lines. Smith is not playing the usual “Maggie Smith” role; she’s softer, not quite as imperiously forbidding as usual. The material veers a bit too predictably from near farce to serioso dramatics but the trajectory here makes emotional sense. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual references.)