Saturday, April 20, 2013


The other night I got to go to the opening of a Broadway play by an old friend. Lyle Kessler's ORPHANS first opened in L.A. in 1983, when Lyle and his wife, the actress Margaret Ladd, lived down the street from the house me and my second wife moved into that year in Santa Monica. Lyle and I became instant friends. He was and is the calmest and most reasonable friend I think I ever had. And I became a great admirer of his work, especially ORPHANS when I saw it then in its original run.

After all these years, after being on stages around the world, and having a movie made of it, ORPHANS has finally come to Broadway. Man was it worth the wait. If you are anywhere near the city and there are tickets available, this is a totally entertaining show that engages you through every beat. And the acting is so delicious.

Alec Baldwin, another old friend I first met not long after I met Lyle, is as great as always and gets to use a lot of his enormous range, from comic to cool to poignant to enlightening. Ben Foster, who I've been a fan of for years after seeing him give great performances in movies, is a treat to watch live on stage in a role that demands an incredible range as well.

The actor I was least familiar with, who is the third member of the cast and is on stage most in the play, Tom Storridge, was the big surprise. He gave a seamless performance that kept me riveted, reminding me of a young Daniel Day-Lewis, like some original mix of that great actor's performances in MY LEFT FOOT and LAST OF THE MOHICANS.

The director, Daniel Sullivan has so many Tony and other nominations he's in the Theater Hall of Fame. It must have been a challenge to deal with the loss of the original actor in the role Ben Foster had to fill without a lot of rehearsal time, let alone the tabloid attention over that, but the power of Kessler's writing and the richness of the characters makes it difficult to mess up.

The play evokes the spirit of early William Saroyan or aspects of Frank Capra's work but is really too unique to even describe without creating misconceptions. I was afraid it might be too unique for Broadway critics, but I suspected it would delight an audience and it sure did. The response was visceral from the moment the curtain rose. The audience gave itself up to the performances and dialogue and story and was richly rewarded, and expressed their gratitude with every burst of laughter or mesmerized and focused silent attention.

Just thinking about it makes me want to go see it again.

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