Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Recommendation ***

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Jonathan Caren's modern moral tale, first produced at the Old Globe in San Diego, takes on big themes, such as race, class, envy, friendship, loyalty, trustworthiness and ingratitude. The play, now at The Flea's tiny downstairs theater, is narrated by Iskinder Iudoku (James Fouhey), who, with his half-Ethiopian half-Caucasian parentage, doesn't know quite where he belongs. In his freshman year at Brown, his roommate is Aaron Feldman (Austin Trow), wealthy, popular, privileged, self-absorbed, whose sense of entitlement is boundless. He takes Iskinder under his wing, gives him a taste of the good life, and gets his father to write Iskinder a recommendation for law school. They both end up in LA, Iskinder at a white-shoe law firm and Aaron as a filmmaker's assistant. When Aaron is stopped by the police for a broken taillight, he is arrested on an outstanding warrant and thrown in jail where he meets Dwight Barnes (Barron B. Bass), a fast-talking second offender who offers Aaron protection in jail in return for his promise of legal assistance. Five years later, against Aaron's wishes, Iskinder has written an appeal that wins Dwight's release from prison. Iskinder's letter of recommendation helps Dwight land a job at Aaron's health club, where there is a final melodramatic confrontation. The play is flawed, especially in the over-formulaic second act, but it is ambitious, energetic and very well-performed. Caile Hevner Kemp's extremely simple set makes good use of the wide, shallow stage. Sydney Maresca's costumes are apt. Kel Haney's direction is fine. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes including intermission. 

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