PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Man and Boy—My Dad, the Cad

By Harry Haun
10 Oct 2011

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A tell-tale touch that makes this contest with Langella a no-contest is the nerdy, plastered-down hair that Hutchison affects. "Did you enjoy that? That's, like, my own touch. They do my hair. I go back to the dressing room and make sure it's slicked down. I'm glad somebody noticed. I thought it was just for my own enjoyment."

The most electrically charged and potent relationship on the stage is the false one Langella masterminds with his nemesis, played much like a gay Edward Arnold by the gifted Zach Grenier, who's quick to pick up on the loaded, coded homosexual signals Langella keeps letting slip whenever a distraction is necessary.

"There's a subtext and a subtextual text and a text," he explained. "I get to play these three things, and one of the subtexts I get to share with the audience so, for an actor, it's just this wonderful thing—this lie-within-the-lie-within-the-lie sort of thing.

"I have so much fun working on this thing. Also, one of the reasons why you evoke the name of Edward Arnold is because of the style of the piece. It's Terence Rattigan, and there's a je ne sais quoi about his style of writing and nuance and class."

Grenier, last seen on Broadway as Ludwig von Beethoven in 33 Variations, is not surprised he would make beautiful music with a former Broadway Salieri like Langella. "We worked together before in A Man for All Seasons. I played Cromwell, and he played Thomas More—or, I should say, he played Thomas More, and I played Cromwell—and he is still just this wonderful collaborator."

In addition to understudying Grenier and Siberry, John Hickok makes a nightly contribution sight unseen as the radio announcer reporting on Antonescu's latest dire downturn. "It runs in my family," Hickok offered about the voiceover work. "Dad's Bill Hickok—not the Wild one—who did 'The Milkman's Matinee' at WNEW-AM for many, many years in the '70s, so I come by this honestly."

Hickok fils, who was very visible in Aida and Little Women, is currently working on a one-man play about an ancestor of his who came over on the Mayflower. "Stephen Hopkins was an amazing, Zelig-like figure who appeared in these crucial moments in history and is actually written into a Shakespeare play, The Tempest. The storm that happens in The Tempest is a storm that actually hit the ship Hopkins was on when he was heading for The New World."

Virginia Kull
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

There are women in the show. Father and son—this Man and Boy—both have Significant Others: Virginia Kull is the actress girlfriend of the son—"an absolute firecracker," contended Kull. "She's got nerve. She's got gumption. She tells it like it is. She's not afraid to speak the truth." Not only that: from the look of the two sofa cushions on the floor, she appears to be a pretty volatile influence.

So, too, is the second Mrs. Antonescu, but not necessarily in a good way—a trophy wife found in a London typing pool and anointed countess through the sheer power of money. "I love her survival skills," admitted the actress playing the part, Francesca Faridany. "She really sets out to make her life better than the one she had. Even at the end, she says, 'Don't turn around and blame me for not wanting to be next to you when you blow your head off. I don't know what you've done, but you've never let me in until this day so, no, I'm going away.' I love her for that."

And, a woman directed the play as well—twice. Maria Aitken helmed a successful London revival of Man and Boy in 2004 with David Suchet, prompting this stateside echo with Langella. Has her direction changed transatlantically? "Oh, completely," she insisted. "I don't even remember what I did. I never keep a record of these things. It was at least seven or eight years ago. The interesting thing is what sticks is the rhythm of some lines and insights that were worth having, but physically it's different—completely. I have different actors."

Not the least of whom is Langella instead of Suchet. "Frank and I have shaken down to a great rapport. I've never been as frank to any actor as I am with him. He can take it. If he recognizes the strength of a note, he takes it and executes it instantly."

Also, the passage of time from the London production to the American one has only deepened its topicality, Aitken was quick to point out. "It's much more relevant now. It's rather eerie how apropos the whole thing has become. I mean, it's an interesting play at any time, but now it resonates in a rather frightening way, I think."

Maria Aitken
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Her next project excites her: "I have the great joy of doing my favorite play at the Huntington Theatre in Boston. I'm going to do a Private Lives in May, with rather young people—because I think the older they are, the less attractive the play is—so the Huntington is allowing me to do it with these young people."

The scruffy Greenwich Village apartment of the son, where the play is set, is nowhere near the tidy, ordered, shelf-filled sets usually associated with Derek McLane (vide his Tony-winning 33 Variations). He got there, he said, by looking at a lot of pictures of old New York apartments in the '20s and '30s and walking around Greenwich Village a lot. I hope it evokes a special feeling of recognition for the audience—one of those 'Aha! I know where we are' moments."

Costume designer Martin Pakledinaz, continuing his rush of lush '30s get-ups (Anything Goes, Lend Me a Tenor), outfits Langella in a gorgeous, broad-shouldered suit as befits a high-flying financier, and he has provided Faridany with a stunning fashion moment where, with a slight adjustment, her hood falls down around her shoulders and becomes a jacket—voila! a neat trick, that.

"This is the kind of theatre I love to design," said Pakledinaz, "where the characters are so succinct and precise. Roundabout couldn't have been lovelier. They said, 'Take as much time as you need. You can have anything you want in budget and fabric.'"

Roundabout regulars made up much of the opening-night star-cluster: Adam Godley, the Tony-nominated "swashbuckler" of Anything Goes, with John Hartner; Bye Bye Birdie composer Charles Strouse with wife Barbara; She Loves Me lyricist Sheldon Harnick; writer Rick Elice promising an open-ended return of Peter and the Starcatcher this season, co-directed by his partner, Roger Rees, currently heading The Addams Family, and Alex Timbers; the co-writer and director of Everyday Rapture, Dick Scanlan (currently retooling The Unsinkable Molly Brown) and Michael Mayer (readying On a Clear Day You Can See Forever to start previewing Nov. 12 at the St. James); Dana Ivey (giddily on the brink of a Greek vacation); Laura Osnes, late of Anything Goes, high from her first week of rehearsing Bonnie & Clyde, with hubby-photographer Nathan Johnson, who shot the B&C poster; Byron Jennings with wife, Carolyn McCormick; Old Acquaintance's Margaret Colin; novelist Patrick McGrath, Marylouise Burke, Laila Robins and Bill Irwin, who didn't outlive the first episode of "A Gifted Man" and is now in Sam Waterston's King Lear, playing The Fool (an early calling).

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