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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
MAN AND BOY
at American Airlines Theatre

STRAINED AFFECTION
By MATT WINDMAN

  Virginia Kull, Frank Langella and Adam Driver/ Ph: Joan Marcus

Terence Rattigan, a prominent mid-20th century English playwright whose extensive body of work has fallen out of fashion, needs a second look. It’s just a shame that, out of all his plays, the Roundabout Theatre Company chose to revive Man and Boy, a minor 1963 flop.

In spite of its contemporary relevance to the Madoff family, the play really isn’t very good, and Maria Aitken’s stale production comes off as merely another showcase for Frank Langella. But given Langella’s considerable talent, there’s still much to savor. 

Set in a basement apartment in Greenwich Village during the Depression, Basil Anthony, a young male with socialist leanings, is stupefied one night to find his long-estranged father Gregor Antonescu, who is a Romanian-born, famous financier, hiding out from the police and press in his dilapidated home after his misconduct has been revealed.

Rattigan presents Gregor as a selfish, unforgivable character who goes so far as to use his son as bait to trap a colleague with homosexual leanings into accepting a bad deal. By the end, Gregor, after rejecting his son’s need for affection following years of neglect, walks off to escape, surrender or perhaps commit suicide.

The relationship between Gregor and Basil has an obvious parallel with that of Bernard Madoff and his son Mark, who committed suicide a few months ago. But besides some chat about Gregor’s desperate situation, very little occurs during the play, and the father-son relationship comes off as superficial.

Langella, who triumphed on Broadway five years ago in Frost/Nixon, plays Gregor with a confident ease and swagger. Even in the mist of turmoil, he can still negotiate a good deal.

Adam Driver brings a burning intensity to Basil, stressing the character’s pent-up anger and hidden desire for fatherly affection.

Here’s a thought: Instead of reviving a mediocre play with vague parallels to the Madoffs, why not write a new one about them?     

 


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