Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Oldest Boy ****

Lincoln Center Theater is presenting the world premiere of this fascinating work by Sarah Ruhl, one of our most versatile and interesting playwrights. Her plays are so varied that it is difficult to find a common denominator other than flashes of her intelligence and humor. The present work almost has the aura of a fairy tale. An American woman identified only as Mother (a superb Celia Keenan-Bolger) is married to a Tibetan refugee (James Yaegashi) who owns a restaurant in an unnamed American city. Each of them has broken an engagement to marry. One day two Tibetan Buddhist monks (Jon Norman Schneider and James Saito) pay an unexpected visit. They think that the family’s three-year old son may be the reincarnation of an important Buddhist teacher. When the son (Ernest Abuba) passes their tests, they are convinced that he is indeed their late teacher reborn and ask to take him back to India, their home in exile, to be educated in their monastery. I will say no more about the outcome. Rebecca Taichman, who has directed many of Ruhl’s previous plays, once again demonstrates her affinity for Ruhl’s sensibility. It is hard to imagine a better production. The sets by Mimi Lien, the gorgeous costumes by Anita Yavich, the evocative lighting by Japhy Weideman, the sound design by Darron L. West, the puppetry by Matt Acheson, the choreography by Barney O’Hanlon and Taichman’s skillful direction combined to weave an almost hypnotic spell over me. It was a stimulating experience. Running time: 2 hours including intermission.

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