Friday, October 5, 2012
Don't Go Gentle ***
Stephen Belber's new family drama, now in previews in an MCC production at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, raises several interesting questions: Can a conservative retired judge (Michael Crsitofer) recovering from cancer surgery still atone for his past mistakes and find some sort of redemption? Should his remaining time be devoted to repairing the toxic relationships with his adult children -- a divorced, unemployed, recovering addict son (David Wilson Barnes) and an ostensibly successful daughter (Jennifer Mudge) whose lifetime efforts to be family peacemaker have left her with a drinking problem? Or would his time be better spent trying to improve the lives of a black woman (Angela Lewis), whose pro bono case he has taken, and her sullen 16-year-old son (Maxx Brawer)? Can we each learn from our own history or are we condemned to repeat our mistakes? Belber skillfully creates crisp dialogue and complex characters who elicit both sympathy and antipathy. Parts of the plot may be implausible, but are nevertheless dramatically rewarding. The acting is strong, although Brawer looks too old for his part. Lucie Tiberghien's direction keeps things moving along briskly. Robin Vest's set evocatively suggests a prosperous home furnished long ago. Jenny Mannis' costumes are appropriate to their characters. It didn't leave me feeling happier or wiser, but glad I had seen it. Running time: 90 minutes without intermission.