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"The Philanthropist" with Matthew Broderick at the American Airlines Theatre
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"The Philanthropist" with Matthew Broderick at the American Airlines Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Roundabout Theatre Company
Todd Haimes, Artistic Director


Matthew Broderick
Jonathan Cake, Anna Madeley, Steven Weber
The Philanthropist

By Christopher Hampton

Tate Ellington, Jennifer Mudge, Samantha Soule

Directed by David Grindley

At the
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 47th Street

Set Design: Tim Shortall
Costume Design: Tobin Ost
Lighting Design: Rick Fisher
Sound Design: Gregory Clarke
Dialect Coach: Gillian Lane-Plescia
Production Stage Manager: Arthur Gaffin
Casting: Carrie Gardner
Production Management: Aurora Productions
General Manager: Rebecca Habel
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Director of Marketing - Sales Promotions: David B. Steffen
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Assoc. Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 24, 2009

There are some plays that one forgets in a year, some in a month, and some in an hour. For this viewer, I lost track of The Philanthropist the moment fresh outdoor air hit my face. In fact, I could barely breathe, not even hear the dialogue (thanks to one of the worst sound systems all season), during this oh-so-too-long Roundabout production. What seemed amazing was the fact that Hedda Gabler and A Man for All Seasons had runs at this theatre with no sound issues whatsoever. But, for a quiet melancholy play, with understated, not funny British humor, and a cast that generates yawns (I saw at least six members of the audience with tightly closed eyes), to try to project in the American Airlines Theatre, of all venues, seems totally misconceived. Up front, I suggest re-mounting this production with a new Director, perhaps new cast, in an intimate Off-Broadway venue, just to explore its potential for New York success. Matthew Broderick et al. are not Mary Louise Parker or Frank Langella et al. Mr. Broderick was astoundingly charismatic in The Producers, among his numerous hits, but, again, The Producers is not a yawn-inducing, mannered play about a British professor of philology.

The story line concerns misunderstood language and intent, like Philip’s (Matthew Broderick) fiancée’s (Celia) going home with Braham (Jonathan Cake), because she felt rejected by Philip, who just wanted to clean up from his company on his own, before another guest, Araminta (Jennifer Mudge) stays on through her own seductive wiles. Then there’s morning after French-farce-like, quasi-comedic banter, without the timing or energy of true Feydeau farce. Much of the Act I banter sets the stage for observation of the characters’ (add Steven Weber as Donald) detachment and shallowness (this was when the eyes started closing), such as lack of interest in international crises; much of the Act II banter revolves around fixing the misunderstandings of the mixed up sleepovers, without expressing emotion or affect. Moreover, additional banter (again, how do two hours of banter project in this expansive theatre, adding the defective sound system?) emphasizes the sophisticated intellectualism of this cast, their prowess and sarcasm, but with quiet melancholy, as noted above. Even a death witnessed up close fails to induce a touch of personality. One more sultry note: Philips’s specialty is creating anagrams, or turning the letters of a phrase into a new, unrelated phrase. What’s an anagram for “Don’t rush to The Philanthropist”?

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at