"Orphans" was written in 1983 by Lyle Kessler, who grew up in Philadelphia and left when he was around 20 to pursue a career in acting, then branched out to write plays and screenplays, including a film version of "Orphans." The play has been widely performed -– Philadelphia Theatre Company was an early producer, a few years after its initial staging in Los Angeles -- but it has never appeared on Broadway until now.
Two orphaned brothers are living in a decrepit North Philadelphia row house. Treat, the eldest, supports his damaged younger sibling by petty thievery, and makes the house a virtual prison for the seemingly simple-minded Phillip. One night he kidnaps a rich older man, Harold, who turns out to have his own motives and becomes the father figure the boys have always yearned for.
In being such a small cast, this play needs three strong actors to really get into this rather confusing and intense play. Unfortuntly when casting, they missed the mark in more than one occasion. Alec Baldwin (TV's 30 Rock) played Harold, an ex-orphan who happened to find his own way and started a good life for himself and in the end becoming very wealthy. Its clear as to why Baldwin wanted to take on this role, it because its no different or challenging from any character that anyone has ever seen him play, which resulted in an extremely boring performance and some of the worst drunk acting to ever hit stage. Ben Foster played Treat, a violent and headstrong orphan who is taking care of his little brother Philip and Harold tries to help. Foster tries really hard to be frighting and intimidating but it was hard to believe that he had any kind of murderous bone in his body.After watching Baldwins and Fosters performance together, it was clear that maybe the director and producers replaced the wrong actor. Thank God for Tom Sturridge who portrayed Philip, Treats younger brother who has special needs and doesn't ever leave the house. Sturridge's performance was fun yet had warm heart felt notes behind it, clearly you don't have to be a big name to be good.
Pretty much the full design team from Tony Award willing play Good People comes back together to get this production of the ground, unfortunately this time it was a swing and a miss. Daniel Sullivan(Good People) directed, and man was the action uncleared and unjustified, the space was used well but only because he had Tom Sturridge's jumping around everywhere. Also he didnt even have them use the most interesting part of Jon Lee Beatty's(Good People) set which was the up stairs bedrooms, as soon as the curtain went up the audience was wondering whats going to happen up there? Well don't get your hopes up because its nothing. Between Beatty's set and Pat Philips (Good People) light's, this production had nothing visually pleasing to look at. A shame.
ORPHANS is playing in a limited run through June 30, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, on 45th Street near Eighth Avenue, New York City.