note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey
Donald Margulies has wandered into Neil Simon territory with BROOKLYN BOY and the good news is that Margulies has written an endearingly sweet—and very funny play. The New England premiere, directed by Adam Zahler, sizzles with performances that pop and satisfies with a lovely lesson about forgiveness and healing.
Margulies’ inspiring message in BROOKLYN BOY is that you can exorcise painful ghosts by inviting them in—and you can reconcile a difficult relationship even after death. The play is bright and hilarious, sad and hopeful, and has one of the best final scenes I’ve come across in a long time. Granted, it’s not SpeakEasy’s usual fare but Zahler and company make it worth the trip.
The Brooklyn boy (Victor Warren in a sensitive, moving performance) is a writer whose ailing father doesn’t offer up praise, even when his son’s book makes it onto the New York Times’ bestseller list. David Kristin gives the father a tough, Borscht Belt edge which we suspect masks his affection for his son, even if the son can’t see it. Poor fellow, his wife is divorcing him, his father’s illness has interrupted his book tour and now he’s being dogged by a childhood friend from the old neighborhood who wants to “reconnect” after thirty years.
Debra Wise cleverly plays the wife as a conflicted woman who needs to strike out on her own, instead of a villain. Ken Baltin nails the schlemiel of a friend, making him just a little creepy and a whole lot needy, so we can feel sorry for him when the writer has no time for a reunion, and glad when he reappears for another shot at his mission. Baltin stands a little too close and laughs a little too loud. We know this guy.
Ellen Colton proves again that she is one of Boston’s best comediennes, waltzing her way through the part of the tough-talking, self-serving Hollywood producer ready to sell the writer up the river if she can get a Brad Pitt clone to sign on. Brad “Pitt” Smith is a riot as the actor who wants to “stretch” himself. Joy Lamberton, too, is quite adorable as the undergrad who wants to put a “writer” notch on her belt. Zahler cannily keeps the comic roles just this side of caricature. Move over, Neil Simon. Make room for more Brighton Beach memoirs.