This one took me by surprise. British writer Terrence Rattigan was a closeted homosexual who was known for his well-constructed, understated and intelligent dramas. About half-way through Act I of Man & Boy the action takes a decidedly gay turn that comes out of left field (marvelously played by Frank Langella as ruthless financier Gregor Antonescu). This play, while full of subtleties, is far from understated – in fact it something of a gripping, suspenseful thriller.
Man & Boy is set in 1934 New York, at the height of the Great Depression (Rattigan wrote the play in 1963, which explains the explicitness of its gay twist). Antonescu’s finance business teeters on the brink of collapse. Gregor tracks down his estranged son Basil (Adam Driver) to use his Greenwich Village apartment to make a company-saving deal.
The play hits a number of nerves in these days of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. I think it’s quite a good play, stronger and certainly more intelligent than many recent works, and encourages me to look more deeply into Rattigan’s plays (I had never read or seen one before). Frank Langella is always a compelling reason to see whatever he’s in, and that’s certainly true here, where he gives a thoughtful, measured – but still marvelously mannered – performance.
Langella is ably aided by the supporting cast, Driver in particular, as well Zach Grenier as a business partner with a secret or two up his own sleeve. Director Maria Aitken (best known on these shores for The 39 Steps) manages the play’s intricate action deftly. Based on everything I knew about Rattigan, I was prepared to dismiss him without a second thought – this fine production of this intriguing play has completely changed my mind.
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