Man and Boy: Socialism, Capitalism and New York

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So you haven’t been to the theatre in ages and you hate musicals. You hate ridiculous dance numbers and you have a particular distaste for anything that has a masked, green or otherwise disfigured face. You like substantive plays that make you think—cue Man and Boy. This Roundabout Theatre Company production is perfect for King’s students wishing to see great theater at a good price ($22 for general rush tickets).

This timely and thought-provoking piece is more than just a look at a “one-percenter,” it’s a look at a community run by a tyrant. It shows what it means to live in right relationship with the community around us. King’s students will no doubt resonate with the socialist and capitalist tension in the show, while they will be challenged by what it means to live within the community around us.

Man and Boy shows the relationship between a controlling, cold capitalist and the people who suffer the brunt of his power-grabbing career. With a script that sells dialogue rather than action and confines it all in one location, Man and Boy requires a swift pace and unpredictable character dynamics to keep the attention of an audience.  Commanded by three-time Tony Award winner Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), the seven-person cast maintains a sense of balance.  Just as the man can only be fully understood in light of his juxtaposition with the boy, one character can only be fully understood in connection with another. It would be easy to let the 73-year legend overpower the other cast members; however, they hold their own.

No doubt the greatest asset to this production is Mr. Langella’s performance of Gregor Antonescu. His performance is sensitive to to interpersonal communication. He allows himself to be affected by the actors around him. Whereas it would be easy for Mr. Langella to congeal his character in a typical “Langella” performance, he conformed to the fearsome Antonescu.  The “Langella” presence is his shell, but Antonescu’s pain is clearly visible underneath.

 

Maria Aitken’s direction is commendable, as blocking and character choices consistently present a theme of balance. By eliminating the option to escape from the stage, Aitken ordained each character’s choice to abandon Antonescu with much more power.  Aitken has marked every aspect of the production with contradictions to demonstrate that man and boy together are the whole human.

The equally nuanced cutaway set reveals the detailed innards of a West Village apartment. An inordinate amount of broken tile, Life magazines, cigars and liquor bottles suggest memories the room cannot forget. If those walls could talk, who knows what they would snitch on.

The greatest letdown of this production is indeed its ending. The obvious profundity of the ending was muddled with awkward blocking and out-of-place sound effects. If anything, it left the audience confused and wondering what happened, but not in a good way.

A slightly less but ever present flaw is Adam Driver’s deadpan expression. If the audience feels empathy for Basil, it is not because Driver conveys Basil’s struggles but only because Driver is the recipient of Langella’s mortifying anger.

Man and Boy could not have arrived on Broadway at a more perfect time. With Occupy Wall Street in full motion, Man and Boy gives a face to the 1% and a story behind what happens with unhindered power. The themes of this production transcend any percentages and address the fierce price of loyalty and relationships’ unspoken grievances.  Man and Boy is written in the language of King’s—socialism, capitalism, New York. Therefore, King’s should learn from Man and Boy: it's not strategic influence that makes a community work—it's loyalty.

MiscKatie Hay