PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Golden Boy; Second Fiddle to Boxing

By Harry Haun
07 Dec 2012

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Seth Numrich, who last co-starred with a pile of sticks and bones called Joey in Lincoln Center's War Horse, is the main event here, Golden Boy himself, and holds his own among the distinguished company in his support, risking big and winning big throughout. "This company is an incredible group of artists — it's such an honor to share the stage with them," he said. "We just worked hard finding our way into that world of what New York was like in the 1930s — what those people were thinking and what they were dealing with and struggling with. Once we found our way into that, I felt that the language just sorta made sense in our mouths, and we started finding our way through those scenes and those lines. Yeah, it all felt very organic and natural, and it was because we had that support from the creative team. Everyone in the company was interested in finding our way into that. This play is an amazing piece of writing. To get to work on something like this is an actor's dream because there's so much to dig into and so much to sink your teeth into."

Casting the play properly took six months, according to Sher. "Casting is a mixture of good luck and time," he said. "You have to be willing to take the time to find people."

Since Odets is the personal favorite playwright of Andre Bishop, who co-produced the play with Bernard Gersten for Lincoln Center Theater, time was allowed, and Bishop is pleased with the rough-hewn world that emerged. "These actors have been directed to be real and to reach deep into themselves," he said. "It sounds like what everyone says, but it's not what everyone does. A lot of the cast are New York born and bred — in Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx — so they know how to do it."

They were music to the ears of Yvonne Strahovski, who managed the tart-talking Lorna Moon with the greatest of ease and assurance, despite the slight handicap of hailing from Australia. "That's a credit to Deb [Deborah Hecht], our dialogue coach," the actress happily acknowledged. "She really helped us along the way. Also, we all watched a lot of old movies. And then also being around each other — hearing all the authentic New Yorkers in the cast, it was a big help to be around them."

Yvonne Strahovski and Danny Mastrogiorgio
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

One of two women in a cast of 19, Strahovski is the female focal point of the play, caught between two men but not above snarling "Keep off the grass" when one gets too close — a ragdoll with spine and spunk. "It's been a journey to make sense of Lorna because she's all over the place," Strahovski admitted. "She's one of the most challenging roles I've had to do. She has been so broken in her life that she's developed this tough exterior, but I think she still has a heart, and she's so caught up in this world of survival. She's with Tom Moody because she's able to survive with him and he's good for her. When she meets Joe, he sorta rocks her world, and she has feelings for him. It dismantles everything that she has put into place up until now in her life and she doesn't really know what to do with it until the end of the play.

"It's a very tumultuous ride, this role. It always feels like a three-hour marathon at the end of the night. Once we get off that stage, it takes a while to come down from this play because there's a lot of heightened emotions and heightened anxieties."

The hard-driving pace of the play is established immediately with an intimate argument between her character and Moody, played by Danny Mastrogiorgio. They come out of the chute, shooting sparklers, slinging attitude all over the stage.

"Odets' dialogue is what does it," Mastrogiorgio contended, "and Bart was very conscious of the pace and the fact that the dialogue works in a particular way.

"The thing I like about Moody is that he doesn't stop fighting. He doesn't stop trying. Things may be bad. They may have been better before. He might have fallen on to hard times, but that does not stop him from trying. I think he is extremely capable of love. His love for Lorna is very true. He doesn't necessarily always do the right thing, but I think he has a lot of heart and comes from the right place, and he never quits."

Anthony Crivello
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The surprise casting that Sher is particularly pleased with is that of Anthony Crivello, a Tony winner for Kiss for the Spider Woman, who plays a gay gangster lording over the proceedings. "We got lucky with him because we found out that he was returning to New York from Vegas where he had been doing Phantom all those years, and he was available just when we needed him. He turned up on the scene just when the perfect part was there for him. That part was extremely hard to cast.

"So was Lorna. I went to L.A. and saw everybody I could. Yvonne, initially, was quite a risk because she had training from Western Sydney in Australia, but she had a beautiful warmth and honesty about her — and verbal skills. Also, she can do that weird mixture of tough and vulnerable, and not everyone can do that. She hadn't been on stage in a long time. The first Broadway show she's ever seen or been anywhere near is Golden Boy. This one. She has never even seen a Broadway show."

Crivello soft-peddles the gayness of his characters, painting him in a light lavender pastel. "It's a fine line to walk. He's such a difficult, complex character. The thing is, just from doing research, there was a case in 1935 where two mobsters were killed by the mob in a Milwaukee nightclub called The Gay Spot — the exact same time period of this. [My] character is so audacious and so powerful — he wears it, but he wears it subtly. There is, at times, a flippancy that will come out of him. He's obviously funny. He wants to command the room, but he's also ferocious. It's delicious material to play. It's such a classic piece of American theatre. It's so important that Odets and this particular play be part of a rediscovery of this play on Broadway. I can't convey how humbling it is.

"I had a tremendous time doing this," he continued. "It has been nothing but wonderful being back in New York and back on Broadway. Repeatedly, people are saying to me, 'Anthony, welcome home.' And that's exactly how I feel. And to be in this company with this caliber of talent, to me, is absolutely mind-blowing."