Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Substance of Fire

Jon Robin Baitz' story is re-told at Second Stage this spring.  I didn't know at the time but it was previously a movie in 1996 with a great cast (Sarah Jessica Parker, Ron Rifkin, Timothy HuttonTony Goldwyn, Dick Latessa and Eric Bogosian) and an original play before that in 1991 at Playwrights Horizons - staring both Rifkin and Parker among originals too.

Knowing this now, I have to imagine it was a fairly decent original run for award winning director Daniel Sullivan.  This production, however, left me a bit dazed and confused.  Act I in which the guns are drawn and tensions mount is tight, crisp, and in this production, well acted and packed a punch.  I was hooked.

However, perhaps the downfall of the original production (I don't know) was also the meandering and lackluster, and frankly bizarre act II.  It certainly was here.  Act II introduces a new character and quite honestly a diversion and story line that came out of left field.   So different was act II from act I that I felt it was an entirely different play.  Two of the characters (siblings) from act I simply disappeared and we are only tacitly filled in on the remaining sibling's status.  The 3 siblings - Halley Feiffer (Sarah), Daniel Eric Gold (Martin), Carter Hudson (Aaron) all deserve kudos as does their father Isaac - John Noble.

In the end - it was tremendous disappointment and after such a great act I, it was that much more deflating.  The cast was magnificent and I enjoyed them all.  However, I did think that Charlayne Woodard (Marge Hackett) overplayed the part (or at least she may have been directed to).

A tough topic - Holocaust survivor coming to grips with the demise of his company as his family struggles to keep things going.  I'm still not sure if in the end he was crazy or not.

I presume Mr. Baitz leaves that up to us to judge.