Sunday, February 16, 2014
Middle of the Night **
It has been 60 years since Paddy Chayefsky's tale of a romance between a 56-year-old Jewish garment manufacturer and his pretty 24-year-old Gentile receptionist first appeared as a television drama starring E.G. Marshall and Eva Marie Saint. Two years later came the Broadway version with Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands. 1959 brought the film with Frederic March and Kim Novak. Now the Keen Company's artistic director, Jonathan Silverstein, has revived the play. I was curious to see how well it has withstood the ravages of time and how well the current leads measure up to their illustrious predecessors. My answer to both questions is "not very well." In the age of Viagra, it is hard to relate to the idea that a man's life is as good as over at 56. The play's impact is also undercut by a shoestring production with three actors playing dual roles and a set (by Steven C. Kemp) that is forced to represent both the apartment of an affluent manufacturer and that of a lower middle class family. Since class difference is almost as important an issue as age difference, this double use of the set undercuts the heart of the play. Jonathan Hadary is respectable as the manufacturer, but Nicole Lowrence plays the girl as so needy that she was painful to watch. I'm not sure whether the problem is the actress or Silverstein's direction. I have seen enough of his work by now to conclude that he is better at selecting plays than at directing them. The level of the other actors varied widely. Chayefsky's writing also veers wildly between the theatrically adept and the clunky. His basic sympathy for his characters is admirable though. This material seemed to work better on television and film than on the stage. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes, including intermission.