Thursday, December 25, 2014

New York Review: 'Orphans'

By Toby Zinman For the Inquirer Once upon a time, not so long ago, in grungy house in North Philadelphia, there lived two orphans. They ate tuna fish every day and kept their dead mother’s coats hanging in the closet. The older brother, Treat (Ben Foster), is filled with rage and makes their living by mugging people in Fairmount Park; the younger brother, Phillip (Tom Sturridge), is not quite right in his head and stays indoors, leaping around the room, from sofa back to windowsill, agile as a young ape. This impressive and engrossing revival of Lyle Kessler’s 1983 play, Orphans, is like a fairy tale about innocence and neediness (as most fairy tales are), except that here the orphans are grown men. And what every fairy tale needs is a godfather—her literalized by a Chicago mobster named Harold (Alec Baldwin). Turns out he too is an orphan, with emotional scars and needs of his own, and the old television serial, “The Dead End Kids” becomes their own household fable. Although Harold is the one kidnapped after a drunken night in a bar, the roles are quickly reversed, and Harold’s money, worldliness and need to be a father-figure, transforms both the younger men and keeps them in thrall to him. The three knockout performances in these juicy roles are each particularized with details and a quirky, individual style under Daniel Sullivan’s high-speed direction. Baldwin’s Harold is self-amused, alternating between paternal pomposity and self-ironizing nostalgia. Foster’s Treat is the most recognizable kind of stage testosterone: vicious and self-defeating and slightly stupid, punching walls, breaking stuff. Sturridge’s Phillip is astonishingly athletic, convincingly brian-damaged, sweet but never cloying, keeping the pathos real. The set, designed by John Lee Beatty, is perfectly authentic – I recognize that North Philly house. And the Philadelphia Inquirer Treat reads is wonderfully thick, a bon fide relic of the old days. ============================= Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre 236 W. 45th Street, NY Through June 30. Tickets $67 - $132 Tele-charge: (212) 239-6200, (800) 432-7250 .

New York Review: 'Orphans'

By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
 
Once upon a time, not so long ago,  in grungy house in North Philadelphia, there lived two orphans. They ate tuna fish every day and kept their dead mother’s coats hanging in the closet. The older brother, Treat (Ben Foster), is filled with rage and makes their living by mugging people in Fairmount Park; the younger brother, Phillip (Tom Sturridge), is not quite right in his head and stays indoors, leaping around the room, from sofa back to windowsill, agile as a young ape.   
 
This impressive and engrossing revival of Lyle Kessler’s 1983 play, Orphans, is like a fairy tale about innocence and neediness (as most fairy tales are), except that here the orphans are grown men.  And what every fairy tale needs is a godfather—her literalized by a Chicago mobster named Harold (Alec Baldwin).  Turns out he too is an orphan, with emotional scars and needs of his own, and the old television serial, “The Dead End Kids” becomes their own household fable.
 
Although Harold is the one kidnapped  after a drunken night in a bar, the roles are quickly reversed, and Harold’s money, worldliness and need to be a father-figure, transforms both the younger men and keeps them in thrall to him.
 
The three knockout performances in these juicy roles are each particularized with details and a quirky, individual style under Daniel Sullivan’s high-speed direction. Baldwin’s Harold is self-amused, alternating between paternal pomposity and self-ironizing nostalgia. Foster’s Treat is the most recognizable kind of stage testosterone: vicious and self-defeating and slightly stupid, punching walls, breaking stuff.  Sturridge’s  Phillip is astonishingly athletic, convincingly brian-damaged, sweet but never cloying, keeping the pathos real. 
 
The set, designed by John Lee Beatty, is perfectly authentic – I recognize that North Philly house.  And the Philadelphia Inquirer Treat reads is wonderfully thick, a bon fide relic of the old days.
=============================
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre 236 W. 45th Street, NY  Through June 30. Tickets $67 - $132 Tele-charge: (212) 239-6200, (800) 432-7250
.

About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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