Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: Golden Boy

Tony Shalhoub, Seth Numrich, and Danny Burstein. Photo: © Paul Kolnik
Golden Boy
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.

More information:
Golden Boy plays at Broadway's beautiful Belasco Theatre, 11 West 44th St., NYC. Tickets:

Christians might also like to know:
In addition to situations already described
-- God's name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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