at the theatre: orphans

orphansLyle Kessler’s Orphans is a curious little play. The story of two brothers – one a grifter, the other a shut-in – and the mysterious gangster that upends their lives has long been a regional theater favorite. It’s slight, but affecting, and the three roles have enough meat to give any actor interested in delving deep into a character study a lot to chew on. (Maybe that explains why chunks of the play so often turn up as audition pieces.) But to be impactful as an evening of theater those three actors need to be evenly matched, which is not the case in director Daniel Sullivan’s production debuting on Broadway at the Schoenfeld Theatre. Tom Sturridge, an actor heretofore unknown to me, gives a performance of such feral specificity as Phillip, the autistic shut-in, that it leaves you wondering what might have been had his partners in crime been able to rise to his level. As Treat, Ben Foster, who replaced Shia LaBeouf after a surreal and very public spat involving creative differences, has his moments but lacks the urgent desperation which comes with assuming the mantle of being his brother’s keeper after Mom and Dad…well, we really don’t know what happened, but it’s obvious that Treat and Phillip have been left to fend for themselves for a long time. Treat gets by as a petty criminal, without any aspiration except to provide for him and his brother – a couple of orphans clinging to each other and enabling their own askew reality in a seedy Philadelphia neighborhood. (The City of Brotherly Love, natch.) Enter Harold, played by Alec Baldwin, a dapper, connected “businessman” lured home from a bar after a night of serious drinking by Treat, who’s hatched a cockamamie plan to hold Harold hostage for a tidy ransom. After passing out Harold wakes the next morning to find himself tied to a chair and it seems that perhaps the ridiculous plan was indeed sublime. Yet playwright Kessler subverts our expectations: Harold easily escapes his ropes, and rather than flee becomes a surrogate father to these two lost boys. You could say he gives them a lesson in self-actualization, helping Phillip to conquer his fears of the big bad world beyond the front door and giving Treat a job, along with a taste for fine suits and bourbon. Suffice it to say this happy domestic arrangement doesn’t last long and things don’t end well. There’s no emotional payoff, however, if we don’t believe these boys are fully invested in Harold. Which brings us to Mr. Baldwin. It’s disconcerting to watch an actor of such estimable talent stumble so demonstrably. His stylized shuck and jive often comes across as funny but it’s emotionally hollow, leaving you to question Harold’s existence as anything other than a metaphor made flesh. And his rapid-fire delivery a la Jack Donaghy too often threatens to turn this production into an extended sitcom – albeit one with an unfortunate ending. What subtle thrills this play provides should come from the shifting dynamics of power in the family love triangle but Baldwin is clearly the alpha male here and his persona can’t seem to find the backseat. Maybe ShiaLaBeoufwas right after all. Or maybe he was just too terrified by the dizzying bar set so high by Mr. Sturridge.

Share

snapshots: philadelphia freedom

Share

it’s a bird, it’s a plane ….

 

Actually, no; it’s my new piece of Japanese fetish kitchenalia: a coffee syphon [sic]. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of a coffee siphon since I first visited Blue Bottle in San Francisco.  Their version looked more like a renegade backyard pot still than something suitable for the home brewer, yet there was no denying the wonderfully rounded taste of the coffee.  In Philadelphia for the weekend, I stopped for lunch at a little hole in the wall in Chinatown on the recommendation of a friend.  She said I wouldn’t believe it at first, but their coffee was amazing.  I didn’t – and it was.  Aside from serving up inexpensive and tasty Cantonese food, a small section of the front counter was devoted to a handful of siphons and specialty coffees, like Jamaican Blue Mountain and a Japanese charcoal roast I had never heard of before.  The diminutive proprietress took pains to explain the entire process as she performed it before serving the coffee in tea cups laid out formally on a tray with accompaniments.  It was a little like witnessing a tea ceremony without the geisha. I love a good ritual and knew I’d be hooked from the moment she started to fresh-grind the beans.  The  resulting brew was dark and steamy, with a faintly acidic bitterness from the charcoal roasting.  This was no morning java jolt but more like a digestif.  At $6 a cup – and $70 a pound – I wasn’t about to start experimenting with that particular roast but I did opt to indulge myself with a new toy. Stay tuned for future updates as I expound on the ritual of the coffee siphon along with what I’m sure will be a multitude of experiments, too.

Share

summer of pride

Kimpton Hotels is honoring the LGBT community’s continued support with a “Summer of Pride” celebration from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Long an insider favorite for its collection of stylish boutique hotels and chef-driven restaurants, Kimpton has cemented its distinctive reputation by making travelers feel welcomed and comfortable while indulging in a bit of playful cheekiness. All summer long travelers gay and straight can plan a weekend retreat and take advantage of this value-driven promotion with perks like 15 percent off the best available overnight rate, a nightly $25 dining credit for the on-site Kimpton Restaurant, and a Pride-themed welcome gift at check-in. Of particular note is one of my favorites: Philadelphia’s LEED-certified Hotel Palomar adjacent to Rittenhouse Square. It features Guillermo Tellez’ standout restaurant, Square 1682, where eco-conscious design meets organic ingredients in a New American menu bolstered by world flavors. Plus, it’s only a stone’s throw to great shopping and all the historical sights. Rates from $194.65 per night. Reservations can be made at online by entering PRIDE in the rate code box.

Even more impressive: Kimpton recently garnered the 2010 Human Rights Campaign Workplace Equality Award and 2011 Equality Forum International Business Leadership Award for its pioneering LGBT employee benefits programs. Kimpton was the first hospitality company to score a 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2004, and has maintained that perfect score every year since.

Share

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.