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Saturday, 15 October 2011 13:21

Broadway Review: MAN AND BOY

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Frank Langella (l) and Adam Driver Frank Langella (l) and Adam Driver Photo: Joan Marcus

Terence Rattigan's Man and Boy, now on stage at Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre, has one undeniably excellent reason to see the show, the performance of its leading man, that great American actor Frank Langella.  Langella sinks his teeth into this role portraying the morally bankrupt Gregor Antonescu, with a quiet, understated manner.  Gregor’s empire is on the verge of collapsing due to financial shenanigans.   While Man and Boy is undoubtedly a timely piece and could almost be considered "ripped from the headlines" of the past couple of years, it would certainly be understandable if some folks are reticent to embrace this Bernie Madoff-esque escapade.  Yet, in the capable hands of director Maria Aitken, this production holds your interest thoroughly.

The appropriately gritty Greenwich Village apartment setting by Derek McLane is perfect.  Gregor has unexpectedly shown up at the apartment of his son Vassily, played by Adam Driver.  Vassily walked out of his father's life five years ago, changed his name to the American-sounding Basil Anthony, and is now playing a piano in a Greenwich Village club.  He eeks out a meager existence compared to the opulence of his childhood.  He's dating an actress, Carol played by Virginia Kull, who makes the best of a rather characterless role.  Carol realizes she doesn’t really know the first thing about Basil until his father shows up.  

Gregor’s hiding from the authorities and seeking an out-of-the-way place for a meeting to try and cover his financial misdeeds.  It is his intention to blackmail a spooked potential business partner, Mark Herries (Zach Grenier, who is so marvelous at creating his roles that I never seem to recognize him until I look at the Playbill after) into moving forward with a merger by exposing his homosexuality.  To enable this, Gregor introduces his son to Herries as his boy toy.  (Will this man stop at nothing, you are no doubt asking yourself by now?)

While Rattigan’s play is an interesting character study into the mind of someone like Bernard Madoff, it loses credibility when the son so quickly goes from hating his father to loving his father. There is no reason for Basil to suddenly go from denying his father’s existence to becoming emotionally entwined in his father’s affairs. Mr. Driver is competent in the role of Vassily but his character rings false when he begins to stutter and during some of the more emotionally vulnerable scenes.  This seems to be more of a problem with Rattigan’s script than with Driver’s acting.

On its surface, Man and Boy is about greed, but its soul is about a man who can’t let himself be loved.  Gregor is a sad, pathetic man who drove away his only son with his unethical behavior. He refers to the loss of Vassily as the loss of his conscience.

Gregor has the same aloof relationship with his wife, the Countess Antonescu, a former girl from the steno pool who has made good. Her husband has purchased her the title of Countess.  Francesca Faridany is the Countess.  Her performance is slightly telegraphic at times with her facial expressions and large gestures bearing the brunt of the work.

Gregor’s right-hand man and “best friend” Sven (its hard to think of a guy like Gregor having a best friend) is sternly played by Michael Siberry.  

Rattigan's Man and Boy was originally produced on Broadway with Charles Boyer as Gregor in 1963. It ran for just over a month.  Not exactly a success.

Maybe it’s our current climate that makes us want to understand someone like Gregor; perhaps it’s a “know thine enemy” thing.  It seems oddly apropos that this work is being presented as hundreds gather in a New York City park to protest the greed and reach of Wall Street.

View full production credits at IBDB.com.

Last modified on Saturday, 15 October 2011 15:37

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