Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Prodigal Son

In likely his most personal work, John Patrick Shanley bring us his own coming of age tale in a touching, moving story of his years in attendance at a small private school in New Hampshire. "Do you remember 15?",  he innocently asks at the beginning of the play - only to circle back to that same line at the very end to emphasize the quality and clarity of his own memories. Indeed Mr. Shanley does remember quite well.

Sharing the stage are both veteran stage actors as well as a new, fresh face who himself might be destined for greatness.  Robert Sean Leonard (Alan Hoffman) and Chris McGarry (Carl Schmitt) deliver solid performances but it is Timothee Chalamet, a 20 year old, fresh-faced talent who has the run of the stage the entirety of the performance.  Aptly cast at his delicate age, Mr. Chalamet seems to have already mastered the art of dialogue, humor, and on-stage charm that only a young boy can.

One has to presume that most of what is told on stage indeed occurred in some form in Mr. Shanley's life.  In true form, the entire story was not laid bare.  Hints of story lines not explored only added to the mystery.  Much of the play is exposition - as it likely should be.  But for a play without much of a twist or gotcha moment, it tended to drag at points.  Regardless of whether it did occur or not, was it really necessary to include the Catholic-isms of the New Hampshire schoolmaster?  Did we need to explore the professor's attraction?  Couldn't that be left to his likely abusive family in the Bronx?  We really never did find out what was so anathema about the prospect of going back to the Bronx but one can assume.  Might a rational person assume an overlap with Doubt here?

Overall, learning about a living, breathing person is a bit awkward.  He could be sitting right next to you during the performance.  Awkwardness aside, this top notch cast turns out an excellent story which will linger with you - just like it has for the real life author.  And for the author and director to be watching his life story told back to him - that must just be mind-blowing.