Wednesday, November 30, 2011

theatre review MAN AND BOY, Broadway, November 26

This past Saturday we caught one of the final performances of the Broadway revival of Terence Rattigan's play Man and Boy.  It was first performed in both London and New York in 1963 and this is the first Broadway revival of the play.

Set in 1934 and covering about 2 1/2 hours one evening in New York City, Frank Langella is Gregor Antonescu, a European financier who finds his world on the brink of financial ruin and scandal.  He is a man who will do anything he can to get away with something, and we soon discover that what he has gotten away with is bilking millions out of companies and robbing many innocent people in doing so.  Antonescu is a magnetic man but also one who is both appalling yet somewhat sympathetic who basically uses anything he can, including his estranged son, to help him get what he wants.  He is basically a soulless businessman.  The events of the play are especially timely today as Antonescu is in line with Bernie Madoff and the men of Enron.

Frank Langella
The play is set in the Greenwich Village apartment of Antonescu's son who has completely distanced himself from his father, even changing his name to Basil Anthony and working as a piano player in a bar.  We've seen Langella in about a half dozen plays now and he is definitely one of the best actors alive today.  It is as if every one of his performances is a master class in acting and his performance in Man and Boy is no different.  he draws you into each character he plays, even the ones you might not especially like.  If Langella is in the cast of a show you're seeing you pretty much know you're going to have an exciting evening in the theatre.

Adam Driver is Basil and he nicely plays the son of a man who he both hates and loves even when he is disgusted when he realizes his father is using him.  That scene, when the audience first realizes exactly what the father is doing, is perfectly directed by Maria Aitken as to how it is sad, humorous, shocking and disgusting all at the same time.

Driver, Langella, Siberry and Grenier

Zach Grenier is the head of the company that Antonescu is trying to swindle and Grenier couldn't be better in the part.  This role is one who has a big secret, and he acts completely different when he realizes that Antonescu knows what his secret is.  Grenier and Langella acted together three years ago in the Broadway revival of A Man of No Importance, and they were great together in that so it is nice to see them together again in this play.

The rest of the cast is also very good with Michael Siberry as Antonescu's long co-partner in the scandals and Francesca Faridany as Antonescu's wife who is using him just as much as she is being used.  Virginia Kull is Basil's girlfriend and I loved how feisty and no nonsence she played the part.  Brian Hutchison is the accountant at Grenier's company who uncovers the wrong doing by Antonescu and the verbal fights they have are electric.

The play is an interesting one in that it tries to tackle many issues around greed, power and family relations as well as right and wrong and truths and lies.  I can understand why the play was not successful when it first premiered or why it hasn't been revived much, and I think that is more to do with the subject matter as well as some of the more shocking incidents that happen in it and less to do with if it is a good play or not.  I found myself intrigued by the characters and the plot and the urgency of the situations and think that with all of the financial swindles the world has now had to deal with that perhaps Man and Boy will now see more productions happening as it seems likely that it might have been way ahead of it's time back in the early 60's.

Highlights from the show:

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