Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Old Boy ***

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
The Keen Company's revival of A.R. Gurney's 1991 play proves once again that no other playwright does the world of WASPs as well as he. Sam (Peter Rini), a politician and diplomat who is considering a run for governor, has returned to his prestigious boarding school to give the commencement speech against the advice of his political aide Bud (Cary Donaldson). Dexter (Tom Riis Farrell), the Anglican clergyman who is second in command at the school, also asks Sam to announce the donation of an indoor tennis court by Harriet (the wonderful Laura Esterman) in memory of her son Perry (Chris Dwan), for whom Sam acted as old boy (mentor) during his first year. Perry's widow Alison (Marsha Dietlein Bennett). whom Sam had dated before Perry, is there for the occasion. The ever-cautious Bud has Perry's demise investigated and reveals to Sam that he died of AIDS. There are several flashbacks to Sam and Perry's years at school, during which Rini and Esterman continue to play their respective characters. Sam's speech at commencement is the play's climax. The play is topical and some of the action seems more driven by political correctness than dramatic impulse. Nevertheless, the characters are well-delineated and the dialogue is sharp. Even second-drawer Gurney is better than most people's top drawer. Rini looks a little too Mediterranean to be plausible as a WASP, but he captures Sam's callow charm. The rest of the cast is fine too. Jonathan Silverstein's direction is unobtrusive. Jennifer Paar's costumes are very good. The wide set by Stephen C. Kemp looked a bit underfurnished. Running time: 75 minutes; no intermission.

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