Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
Man and Boy
By Terence Rattigan
Adam Driver, Francesca Faridany, Zach Grenier,
Brian Hutchison, Virginia Kull, Michael Siberry
Directed by Maria Aitken
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 47th Street
Set Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting Design: Kevin Adams
Sound Design: Drew Levy
Original Music & Sound Design: John Gromada
Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Dialect Coach: Stephen Gabis
Production Stage Manager: Nevin Hedley
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA & Kate Boka, CSA
General Manager: Denise Cooper
Director of Marketing - Sales Promotions: David B. Steffen
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Assoc. Artistic Director: Scott Ellis
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 13, 2011
Terence Rattigan’s 1963 complex masterpiece, Man and Boy, has at its center a larger than life character, Gregor Antonescu, a financial thief of high order, with a Romanian accent, who arrives, in equally larger than life suit and brimmed fedora, at his estranged son’s door. This towering figure is played by none other than the magnificent Frank Langella, last reviewed in this magazine as Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons. Mr. Langella eats up stage space with outsized charisma and minutely nuanced gestures, an actor’s actor. In this Roundabout production, capably directed by Maria Aitken, set in 1934 at Basil Anthony’s (Adam Driver aka “Vassily Antonescu”) Greenwich Village flat. Five years earlier, Vassily had fled his father in London, when Vassily’s gunshot missed, and changed his name and persona. Now Vassily has an attractive actress girlfriend, Carol Penn (Virginia Kull), and the play opens in their post-intimacy bedroom aura. But, in view of Gregor’s magnetic grip, Vassily is engulfed, once again, in his torturous trap.
That trap has at its core money, large sums of money, as the massively built Gregor is about to be indicted for financial fraud and scheming in large dimension. Everything about Gregor overwhelms. He’s seething with terror and victimization, and his plotting mind is almost transparent, as his eyes bolt about, searching for hints of weakness, signals for his exploitation. Gregor quickly rids the scene of Vassily’s lover, in his attempt to isolate his son and draw him closely into his trap. Vassily makes an effort to reach for love, but that attempt is dismissed, as it complicates Gregor’s focus. When we meet Mark Herries (Zach Grenier, who once again plays Mr. Langella’s nemesis, as he was Thomas Cromwell in Roundabout’s A Man for All Seasons), it’s almost certain that Vassily will be tossed to the wolves. Herries is the financier with whom Gregor wants to do business, in a last attempt to hide his fraud from public scrutiny. But, Herries, a closeted elder American gay, in 1930’s society, has a price, and therein lies Gregor’s horrendous trap. Before one could blink, Vassily, who’s rear stage pouring drinks, is offered up like an ace of spades. Gregor pretends he’s loaning one of his own, adding a quick, effeminate affectation. Vassily’s identity had been carefully disguised.
Rounding out this small cast are Michael Siberry as Sven Johnson, Gregor’s loyal assistant, who puts his own safety and reputation at Gregor’s whim, Brian Hutchison, as David Beeston, Herries’ accountant, who drives a hard bargain, and Francesca Faridany, as Countess Antonescu, Gregor’s spoiled, tacky, second wife. Of these three, only Sven remains relevant to the unfolding action. It’s Sven who is with Gregor in what would seem his last moments, as authorities with warrants are awaited. Man and Boy is filled with surprise moves, surprise gestures, some facetious, some frightful. When Vassily runs back into the apartment, gagging, after following Herries to the street, at his father’s bidding, a whiff of poison emanates from this pseudo-parent. Ironically, in the final moments, Gregor reaches into Vassily’s desk to gaze at a long-ago family photo, one he had earlier ignored. Only in solitude, could he reveal a fragment of humanity. Maria Aitken has directed this psychological portrait for nuanced meanings and revelations, fine-tuning communicative and private expressiveness.
I would have liked to see Mr. Driver more direct and masterful, in rejecting his father, but he seemed emotionally trapped, throughout, likely an inherent character trait notated by the playwright. Also disappointing were the fragmented appearances of the two female characters, who seemed to exit oddly. I almost expected them to arrive in the final moments, like “dei ex machina”. Derek McLane’s shabby set was perfectly suited to this two-room, inexpensive, downtown flat. Martin Pakledinaz’ wide-shouldered suit, brimmed fedora, and belted trench were quintessentially conceived to take Gregor above his surroundings. The dialect coach might have created a more prominent Romanian or other Eastern European accent for Gregor, but, again, that may have been Mr. Rattigan’s notation. What I will remember from this production is Mr. Langella’s mesmerizing persona, his seizing of the stage and scenic momentum, his precise metamorphosis into Gregor Antonescu. His character will be unforgettable.