Life and death

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  November 13, 2006

Unlike Lindsay-Abaire’s more idiosyncratic works, this one might easily be a film or television drama. But it is controlled and affecting, without an occasional wild hair out of place. If this is kitchen-sink stuff, it puts forward a deep but unsloppy sink with a pretty ruthless disposal. In fact, at the Huntington, in John Tillinger’s modulated production on James Noone’s comfortable, opulent set, it puts forward much of a pleasant suburban home, the kitchen rolling off to reveal the living room and, later, the dead boy’s room being packed up by an unflinching mother and grandmother, the latter at last dispensing some worthy counsel as she (who also lost a child) describes seasoned grief as less a vaporous sadness than a brick in your pocket.

The performances pull at your heartstrings while tickling your funny bone. In his jeans and perfectly ironed shirts, Jordan Lage’s Howie seems a guy who’s learned to wallow in anguish manfully; even his dictates are piquant. And Donna Bullock is a Becca bristly yet rigid enough that, when she does shatter in the geeky shadow of someone else’s son, the grief is a relief. Geneva Carr is adorable, from spiky locks to paisley tights, as unorthodox, childish Izzy. Troy Deutsch, his coiffure a sculpted bedhead, radiates awkwardness as the inadvertent killer who brings healing news of possible, happier universes. Best of all is Maureen Anderman, who infuses Becca’s scattered, foot-in-mouth mom with an off-kilter wisdom that suggests Lindsay-Abaire, newly wrapped in a towel of naturalism, shouldn’t throw out all the crazy bathwater.


TWELVE ANGRY MEN: Reginald Rose’s nag isn’t ready for the glue factory.

You’d think an old warhorse like Twelve Angry Men (at the Colonial Theatre through November 19) would be ready for the glue factory. But there’s life in Reginald Rose’s nag, whose stable is a hot Manhattan jury room circa 1954. Originally written for television, the Constitution-waving, human-life-respecting smackdown in Jury Room 2A, where an all-male jury is persuaded by one doubting member to consider what at first seems an open-and-shut case, achieved its greatest fame as the 1957 Sidney Lumet movie that starred Henry Fonda. No less a director than Harold Pinter revived the stage play in 1996. But the secret of Scott Ellis’s period-preserving 2004 Roundabout Theatre Company revival, which was nominated for a Tony and won the 2005 Drama Desk Award for outstanding revival, is that its accomplished cast of working actors makes Rose’s dozen cranky males seem like ordinary strangers brought together to exercise their civic duty. The touring version of the show does field entrance-applause-inducing television-series vets Richard Thomas and George Wendt. But who could be more all-American and ordinary than John-Boy Walton and Norm from Cheers?

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