Frail Mitchell holds on to his charisma

VISIT­ING MR GREEN Trafal­gar Stu­dios, Lon­don SW1

The Jewish Chronicle - - ARTS&BOOKS -

THE LAST time War­ren Mitchell was on the West End stage he played Solomon, the 89-year-old furniture dealer in Arthur Miller’s The Price.

This time he plays an­other Jewish New York oc­to­ge­nar­ian. In Jeff Baron’s gen­tle two-han­der, Mitchell is Mr Green, a lonely wi­d­ower who waits for death in his grubby — though kosher — apart­ment on New York’s Up­per West Side.

Death came pretty close a while back when he was nearly knocked down while cross­ing the road. Baron’s play be­gins with the ar­rival of young ex­ec­u­tive Ross (Gideon Turner), the speed­ing driver who has been sen­tenced to six months com­mu­nity ser­vice for which he has to visit the old man once a week.

Over this pe­riod, mu­tual sus­pi­cion turns into a pre­dictably ten­der re­la­tion­ship. Baron’s play has a cou­ple of re­veals but no sur­prises. Its les­son is hardly new and comes when Ross chal­lenges Green’s ho­mo­pho­bia — the point be­ing that the old can learn as much from the young as the young can from the old. Still, Baron writes with wit and his play, best seen as a charm­ing whimsy, is laced with a good dose of New York Jewish hu­mour.

The real story of Pa­trick Gar­land’s pro­duc­tion is Mitchell’s per­for­mance. There are shades of his award-win­ning Solomon, but much more con­spic­u­ous are the ef­fects of the stroke the ac­tor — now 82 — suf­fered while play­ing that part.

Well sup­ported by Turner (some­times phys­i­cally), Mitchell’s Green is a role that can be largely de­liv­ered while seated. When he moves across the stage, it is a painfully slow shuf­fle. And al­though the boom­ing voice of Alf Gar­nett is ab­sent, most of the comic tim­ing, and all the charisma re­mains. ( Tel: 0870 060 6632)


Almeida Theatre, Lon­don N1

STEPHEN ADLY Guir­gis is a New York writer whose track record is more Hell’s Kitchen than hell.

No sur­prise, then, that al­though his trial play, which tests the guilt of Ju­das Is­car­iot, takes place in down­town Pur­ga­tory, in Ru­pert Goold’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing Head­long pro­duc­tion, the place looks a lot like seedy, mod­ern-day New York.

Corey John­son’s un­der­world-weary Judge Lit­tle­field rules over the pro­ceed­ings con­tested by the kind of ad­vo­cates hired from a low-rent Bronx law out­fit.

Ar­gu­ing for Is­car­iot, played pow­er­fully by Joseph Mawle with fevered self­de­struc­tive­ness, is Susan Lynch’s ballsy broad Fabi­ana.

She is up against God’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive — Mark Lockyer’s hi­lar­i­ously word-spit­ting, Arab émi­gré Yusef El-Fay­oumy (cur­rently re­sid­ing in hell due to a pa­per­work mix-up and the Amer­i­can­i­sa­tion of the af­ter­life).

The play’s funny joke is that bib­li­cal wit­nesses are rein­car­nated as foul-mouthed street­wise hus­tlers. Its se­ri­ous theme is the fal­li­bil­ity of judge­ment — not just God’s but ev­ery­one’s.

So when the Jewish wit­ness Ca­iaphas is made to ac­count for be­tray­ing Je­sus, he coun­ters that it is not he who needs for­giv­ing but the New Tes­ta­ment scribes whose “lies and ex­ag­ger­a­tions” led to 2,000 years of per­se­cu­tion.

The great and the good of bib­li­cal and mod­ern his­tory are taken down a notch or 10.

Yusef chal­lenges Freud’s (Josh Co­hen) tes­ti­mony be­cause the fa­ther of mod­ern psy­chol­ogy is an un­reli- able coke-head. Fabi­ana gives Mother Theresa (Dona Croll) a go­ing-over for op­pos­ing Vat­i­can re­forms con­demn­ing an­tisemitism.

Satan (a chill­ing Douglas Hen­shall) and Pon­tius Pi­late (Ron Cephas Jones) also have their say. But what makes this play fly is Adly Guir­gis’s hard-ass di­a­logue that re­spects its sub­ject but leaves noth­ing sa­cred. ( Tel: 020 7359 4404)

CON­TAINS VI­O­LENCE Lyric Ham­mer­smith, Lon­don W6

TWO KINDS of gap fea­ture dur­ing this chilly open air evening.

The first is the con­sid­er­able dis­tance be­tween the ac­tion, which takes place in of­fice win­dows, and the au­di­ence, who sit on the Lyric’s roof ter­race and are equipped with binoc­u­lars and head­phones.

David Rosenberg’s play has been touted as a thriller akin to Hitch­cock’s Rear Win­dow. In one of­fice build­ing a man sits work­ing at his desk. Oc­ca­sion­ally he is in­ter­rupted by abu­sive mes­sages. They could be from the wo­man in the ad­ja­cent block.

A nar­ra­tor warns of mur­der should they meet. In­evitably, they do. But be­fore then, a sec­ond male worker makes a pass at the wo­man with the aid of a slide show pre­sen­ta­tion. And the first male worker strips to his un­der­pants be­fore be­ing as­saulted.

Tech­ni­cally the show re­sults in a mind-ex­pand­ing sen­sa­tion that brings dis­tant char­ac­ters so close you can al­most feel — as well as hear — their breath.

But whereas with his theatre col­lec­tive Shunt, Rosenberg suc­cess­fully side­steps con­ven­tional sto­ry­telling, here his script is al­most en­tirely lack­ing in char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment and ten­sion. Which all leads us to the sec­ond kind of gap — the yawn­ing chasm be­tween bril­liant con­cept and dis­ap­point­ing ex­e­cu­tion. ( Tel: 0871 22 117 29)

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