Saturday, December 18, 2010

Recommended: Golden Boy by Clifford Odets at Church Street Theater

I saw Golden Boy by Clifford Odets, presented by Keegan Theatre, at the Church Street Theater last night.  And I loved it.  I haven't seen much live theater recently, and was reminded how much the energy and emotion of the players make a scene come alive.  Live theater is more visceral, living and breathing, particularly (as was the case last night) when the acting is good.   

The play was not what I was expecting in some ways. From a brief review/synopsis read before the show, I was thinking it was going to be more of a period piece, late 30s sensibility, and an uncomplicated good/evil story. The story centers around Joe Bonaparte, a young violinist who embarks on a boxing career, thereby endangering his relationship with music given the high risk of hand injury from the sport.

The 1930s were present, in language, sets and costumes.  You don't hear a lot of people refer to women as dames in 2010, or to the golden year of 1928 before the crash. The sets, wonderful contraptions were rolled around in a rush of NYC activity to create another sets, included the quintessential wooden private detective desk chair, among other classic pieces.  Heels were wide, dresses long, hats mandatory for men out on the town. 

But beyond that period atmosphere, a much more complicated story unfolded as the protaganist, Joe Bonaparte, fought to find a place where he felt he fit, and the people around him sought to influence his choices for their own reasons.  I'm not going to go into a whole analysis of the themes, but suffice it to say, ambition, idealism, love, marriage, art v. business, fame, comfort, money, competition, despair, health and the finality of some choices are all wound into those 2 hours and 45 minutes.  While the ending is inevitable, the path there is rich with complexities.  

The play only runs through Dec 19th, so go see it quickly.

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