|Tony Shalhoub, Seth Numrich, and Danny Burstein. Photo: © Paul Kolnik|
By Clifford Odets
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Lincoln Center Theater's 75th Anniversary Production
What's it About?
A cast of 19 revives Clifford Odets' story about a violinist who gives up a chance at a musical career for fame as a boxer at the Belasco Theatre, where the play premiered in 1937 (and you might also know the 1939 movie starring William Holden and Barbara Stanwyck). Joe Bonaparte (Seth Numerich) is one of New York's most promising violinists -- a great source of pride for his Italian immigrant father (Tony Shaloub, TV's "Monk"), brother, Frank (Lucas Caleb Rooney), sister, Anna (Dagmara Dominczyk) and her husband, Siggie (Michael Aronov), the precursor of a younger "entitled" younger generation, who wants someone to provide him with a cab so he can make a better living and support his wife and raise a family (when he isn't hitting her). Joe has dreams of fame and fortune, however, gets his chance when he takes the place of a boxer in the ring. Tom Moody (Danny Mastrogiorgio) becomes his manager, but he, trainer Tokio (Danny Burstein) and fight promoter Roxy Gottlieb (Ned Eisenberg, who adds some needed comic relief), feel that Joe's potential is hurt by his refusal to injure the hands needed for paying his instrument. Warnings about that are repeated often by his father, who is afraid his son will end up like fighter Pepper White (Brad Fleischer), an obviously brain-injured boxer who's washed up at the age of 29. Joe finally decide to trade strings for rings, rejects his father and allows gangster Eddie Fuseli (Anthony Crivello) to buy a piece of him in the hope that he can provide a path to greater fame and fortune. Joe also gives in to his passion for Tom's mistress, Lorna Moon (Yvonne Strahovski). The two fall in love and Joe begs her to run away with him, despite the fact that Tom divorces his wife so he can marry her.
What are the Highlights?
Strong performances. Director Bartlett Sher ingeniously employs silent vignettes between scene changes that extend the development of characters and set up the plot. Violin music, sporadically played subtly in the background underscores the heartbreaking decisions Joe makes (Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg, sound design). Towering apartment buildings loom over the action which is set up by sparse props (Michael Yeargan, set design) and Catherine Zuber designs beautiful period suits for Lorna to wear. Shaloub is always a treat on stage.
What are the Lowlights?
While the play raises good questions about morals and what's really important in life, it is of its era -- male heavy in cast and content and degrading of its women. Lorna, the one female with any substance, apparently was a prostitute before becoming a mistress, before becoming a two-timer. We're supposed to be moved by the fact that she is reluctant to hurt Tom, but she's just another woman completely deifined by the men around her.
In addition, the other female character, apparently is happy to be in abusive relationship:
"You hit your wife in private, not in public," her father advises Siggy (yet he is squeamish about the hitting that takes place in the ring).
"He can hit me anytime he likes," is her response.
Two references also are made to men having "stables" of women. What is more upsetting than 1937's commonly accepted viewpoint of women having little value is a 2012 audience finding it all funny and laughing heartily.
Another lowlight: smoke from herbal cigarettes is pretty overwhelming on the sinuses. The play is a bit on the long side at about three ours with two intermissions.
Golden Boy plays at Broadway's beautiful Belasco Theatre, 11 West 44th St., NYC. Tickets: http://www.lct.org/showMain.htm?id=211.
Christians might also like to know:
In addition to situations already described
-- God's name taken in vain