Monday, October 10, 2011

Man and Boy @ American Airlines Theatre

          Adding another classic to their astound company, Roundabout Theatre Company puts Terence Rattigan’s Man and Boy on the Great White Way. With elaborate characters and a twisting plot line, this piece delivers laughs, tension, and an ending that will leave you saying, “Did that just happen?” Lead by legendary Frank Langella, the cast of Man and Boy delivers an emotional journey that supplies quality, truly Broadway at its best. No doubt, a completely satisfying experience.

          At the peak of the Great Depression, cutthroat financier Gregor Antonescu’s (Frank Langella) business is at an extreme low and is at risk of failing. In order to avoid the press and public, Gregor tracks down his estranged son Basil (Adam Driver) with the hopes of using his little Greenwich Village apartment as a place to make company saving deals.

          You know how you can tell a show has good acting in it? You are not thinking about the acting. When the audience is completely entranced by a show they don’t often take notice of the technical bells and whistles that go into an actor’s performance. Yet, is this a bad thing? After all, the main job of an actor is to tell a story. Man and Boy featured its actor/characters in pairs; each one the yin to the others yang. The dependence and need established between the characters added an intricately dynamic ribbon throughout the production. Adam Driver (Basil Anthony) played the distraught son of the great Wall Street tycoon, Gregor Antonescu. With one of the most intricate back stories, Driver delivers the emotionally battered and beaten son beautifully. Basil Anthony left his father and the world he knew after a falling out between the two. Starting out with a strong hatred for his father and their past, Basil goes on an emotional roller coaster and takes the audience along for the ride. After Ms. Penn (Kull) exits, we see Basil slowly crumble and fall back into the habit of idolizing his famous father leading him to feel remorse towards leaving him. Driver displays an ease within his role and adds the creative behavioral gesture of a stammer whenever he is talking of Antonescu. He produces a strong energy in each entrance and exit leaving the atmosphere richer with each line of text. As stated earlier, each character is presented as part of a pair - some characters are involved in more than one and each relationship radiates a different light. The push and pull of the play revolves around the tension each character creates. The atmosphere of the production thrives on the existence of such contrasting characters. The most intriguing relationship was that of Basil Anthony (Driver) and Mr. Gregor Antonescu, played by the astounding Frank Langella. What the audience is exposed to is a broken relationship between father and son. Most eminent in certain moments, Langella and Driver worked well together producing both chemistry and tension in enormous amounts. What intrigues the audience most is how Basil and Gregor relate to each other. To Gregor, Basil is his own conscience. Gregor operates his business as successfully as he does because he has no feeling of remorse. To have Basil in his presence is to have a constant threat to his way of life. Basil feels as though his father misunderstands him, views him as weak. Although he expresses hatred towards his father, Basil still worships Gregor in a way. Towards the end of the play Basil is the only one who shows Mr. Antonescu true loyalty. Gregor is aware of the fact that his son idolizes him & feels that this only justifies how weak and easily mislead his son is. Throughout the play Gregor views his son as a tactic (probably a view he has of most people he come into contact with) and uses him as he sees fit. It becomes clear through all their interactions that Gregor’s biggest disappointment in his son is that he refuses to see who the real Gregor Antonescu is. The moment right before intermission Basil tells Gregor that he is nothing. As the play goes on the audience starts to realize that this statement is not only completely true, but the hardest truth to accept. Frank Langella graces Broadway as Wall Street giant Gregor Antonescu. Antonescu is facing the possible demise of his empire and turns to the only escape route he has left, his estranged son. Gregor exploits all those in his surroundings for his business and is left alone. He faces continuous abandonment from his inner ring and pushes away the only person who stuck around, his son. Langella’s manner, air, and rich vocal abilities add a majestic air to the character. The confident air with which Antonescu holds himself seems to be a natural step for Langella. He had an ease on the stage which made the emotional downfall which Antonescu descends that much more believable. Sven, played by Michael Siberry, was not only the rock, but the hard place as well. Acting as a puppet master in some cases Sven possessed an unspoken control or power over the other characters. He was an expert in getting his way, always believing he was doing the right thing. It was intriguing to see Sven presented as in Gregor’s control and then slowly come to the realization that Sven was consulted before Gregor even took a breath. We see that Sven becomes the only continuous source of power in the entire show. Siberry actively produces an energetic atmosphere which is impressive because the character of Sven is a strong and silent, get to the point type of guy. His strong posture, movement and vocal tension helped bring the character to new levels. Virginia Kull, who opened the show as the Carol Penn (Basil Anthony’s girlfriend), established a strong “yin and yang” relationship between Basil and herself. The two were very intimate with each other which not only clarified their relationship, but also added credit to their dependence on each other. She seemed to be the anchor in the relationship. Basil is strong with her by his side and crumbles when she leaves. Kull’s voice quality was full and displayed realistic emotion throughout her time on stage. As stated before, the character relationships in this production revolve mostly around partnerships. Everyone is a pair. The two who conveyed this message the most are Mark Herries (Zach Greiner) and David Beeston (Brian Hucthinson). Mr. Herries and his accountant Mr. Beeston bring Antonescu’s criminal activities to light. Although the two enter together, they leave at separate times and in two different emotional states. Mr. Herries accusations are reliant upon Mr. Beeston’s numbers. Yet Gregor Antonescu is a force to be reckoned with, breaking down Mr. Beeston’s logic. Once Beeston is questioning himself, Herries’s cool façade begins to fade. Greiner and Hucthinson emit good chemistry and incredibly in sync comedic timing. The regal character of Countess Antonescu just brought the ugly, disloyal side of Mr. Antonescu’s life to light. We see the first act of betrayal in the Countess. She insists on being treated as Gregor’s wife, but in his time of need she turns her back on him. Francesca Faridany displayed quick timing and clear intentions displaying the Countess as not only shallow, but even brought a sympathetic air to her character, invoking pity from the audience.

          The technical perfection was just the cherry on top of an already incredible show. The original music and sound design by John Gromada set the perfect atmosphere, with train rumbles consistently passing through. Gromada created and maintained an outside world which could be forgotten even for a minute. The light design by Kevin Adams established the lower class feel of Basil’s apartment, by using interesting shadow to make the clear assumption that there isn’t any really any kind of quality lighting. The set design by Derek McLane put the audience smack dab in the middle of a crappy Greenwich Village apartment, while still keeping to the time. It’s not often when you find the most effective moment of a play overlapping Intermission. As part of an overall creative directing process, the moment before Intermission was the moment the audience returned to afterwards. Viewing this as a risk that paid off, the choreography off this particular moment pulled the audience back into the world of the production in an original and effective way. Although the production in its entirety was enthralling, there were moments in the staging of the production that were bothersome. In this production every moment leads to something important or is important in itself. Which is why is was incredibly irritating when an actor would come on stage and deliver an important moment with his back to the audience. It not only made it incredibly hard to understand what was happening, but also demeaned the importance of the moment. (In reference to the missing wall on the set) It was incredibly irritating to see actor’s interact with an object that was not there. Although the set design was beautiful and the missing wall not only produced an unique touch to the overall look of the set, but also symbolized the crumbling world that the characters seem to be functioning in, to see actors interact with it broke the willing suspension of disbelief.

          Will the reunion of father and son help them reconcile? Or will the father use his son to save himself and then toss him aside? Well don’t wait to get a ticket and find your way over to the American Airlines Theatre for a theatre experience of a lifetime, that will leave you guessing who is the Man and who is the Boy.

Review By: Morgan Mack

Guest Writter: Morgan Mack

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