Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Don't Go Gentle is Good, but a Bit Unfocussed

Don’t Go Gentle at the Lucille Lortel Theatre takes its time to resolve what it is trying to say, though it never drags.  It is the story of a Judge who is forced from the bench by his failing health.  At a loss as to what to do with his days, he focuses on a mildly wronged African American mother and her nearly adult son.  His supportive relationship with them contrasts with the strained relationship he maintains with his own children,  a devoted daughter and troubled son.
Michael Cristofer plays the Judge, Lawrence, who is going a bit stir-crazy being house bound after cancer surgery.  He is physically recovering well, but is not emotionally reconciling to the end of his career.  At his daughter’s suggestion, Lawrence offers legal aid to a young lady wrongly convicted of a felony, when it should have been a misdemeanor.  Angela Lewis plays the African American woman, Tanya, with very real emotions.  Tanya cares for her 16 year old son, the very tall Rasheed, played excellently by Maxx Brawer.
Angela Lewis & Michael Cristofer in Don't Go Gentle
As the result of the misapplication of the law and her subsequent incarceration, Tanya and Rasheed find their lives interrupted.  None of their problems are direr, but they offend Lawrence’s sense of legal duty, and so he helps where he can.   Once he begins to help them, he finds that he enjoys being a benefactor.
Concurrently, Lawrence’s son Ben returns to the US after a stay in India.  His attempts to help his father’s recovery are met with dismissal.  Ben and his father cannot help but bicker and daughter Amelia plays a constantly frustrated peacemaker.  David Wilson Barnes and Jennifer Mudge portray Ben and Amelia.   I last saw these two excellent actors in The Big Meal, and their easy chemistry is shown off her with a light and lovely touch as siblings well aware of each other’s foibles.  They grew up watching each other’s back in a strict home that was light on affection.
Lawrence’s new found joy at “parenting” Tanya and Rasheed baffle his children, and offend young Rasheed. Director Lucie Tiberghien moves the action along well, even though the play relies quite a bit on episodic scenes that bring choppiness to Don’t Go Gentle.  The other problem is the character of Tanya, who moves from a self-reliant and wary young mother into a houseguest / care giver too easily.
Don’t Go Gentle has some wonderful moments, but the discordant character growth occasionally trips up the narrative.   As with every MCC product at the Lucille Lortel, the technical side of things is excellent (scenic design – Robin Vest, sound design & original composition – Fabian Obispo).
Don't Go Gentle
Playwright: Stephen Belber
Director: Lucie Tiberghien
Cast: David Wilson Barnes, Maxx Brawer, Michael Cristofer, Angela Lewis, Jennifer Mudge

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