Corrections or additions?
This review was prepared by Simon Saltzman for the March 9, 2005
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
New York Review: ‘Brooklyn Boy’
Whatever you do, don’t confuse the ghastly musical "Brooklyn, The
Musical," with the excellent new play "Brooklyn Boy" by genuine
Brooklyn boy Donald Margulies, the author of "Sight Unseen" and the
Pulitzer Prize-winning "Dinner With Friends."
With shades of Thomas Wolfe’s "You can’t go home again," and dedicated
to his late friend playwright Herb Gardner who urged him to write
about what he knows, Margulies has embedded aspects of himself in
"Brooklyn Boy" as novelist Eric Weiss (Adam Arkin), a Brooklyn-born
and raised Jew, now in his late 40s. After three unsuccessful novels,
Eric achieves success with his fourth novel and returns to his old
Brooklyn neighborhood. In this familiar landscape, Eric’s fame is
filtered through the playwright’s obvious identification with him.
Indeed, the play finds its reason and resolve in Eric’s reflections
and the reactions and perspectives of those who most influenced him.
The play opens with Eric’s visit to the hospital to see his dying
father Manny (Allan Miller), a shoe salesman all his life. Allan has
brought him a copy of his book, number 11 on the bestseller list.
Never having been one to offer a word of praise to his son, Manny only
wants to know why it isn’t in the top 10.
Manny is one of those inscrutably familiar Jewish characters that many
will recognize. Miller hits all the right notes as the cynical and
sarcastic patriarch who reluctantly agrees to read his son’s novel,
and only begrudgingly admits at the very end that he has always had
his approval. Just as Eric desperately needs confirmation that his
father has always been secretly proud of him, Eric also tries
everything he can to re-connect with his estranged wife (Polly
Draper), who is adamant about getting a divorce.
The play moves both humorously and movingly through the various
encounters that Eric has with those people who have significantly
shaped his life and influenced his heavily autobiographical novel,
"The Brooklyn Boy." With his sudden fame, he also finds himself
fancying the sexual temptations of Alison (Ari Graynor), a college
student cum celebrity groupie. But even more troubling to him is
considering the lucrative deal being manipulated by a Hollywood
literary agent (Mimi Lieber) who encourages Eric to compromise the
integrity of his novel, "Brooklyn Boy."
This beautifully written and crafted play is structured into six
scenes, each of which feels complete in itself. Yet, each succeeding
scene adds a pertinent dimension to the one it follows. Not
unexpectedly, Arkin fits perfectly into the skin of his disquieted yet
endearing character, a man never quite at peace with himself for
disassociating himself from his family and his religion. There is a
sense of eavesdropping on a very personal journey that comes not only
from Arkin’s deeply intuitive performance but from the ability of
director Daniel Sullivan to keep all the actors rooted in an
atmosphere of honesty and intimacy.
Draper, whose acting ("Closer" on Broadway) has been as lauded as has
been her work as a playwright ("Getting Into Heaven," produced
off-Broadway), has a touching scene as the estranged wife, Nina, a
short story writer who hasn’t had anything published in six years.
With an emotional candor that is stunning, Draper elucidates Nina’s
reasons for ending the marriage. She makes it heartrendingly clear
that she cannot move past her own failure in the light of Eric’s
success, even as Eric confesses how much he still loves her.
Kevin Isola takes disarming charge of the play’s most wittily
conceived character, that of Tyler Shaw, a buff, young almost
airheaded TV star with blonde-streaked hair, who covets playing the
lead role in the proposed film version of "Brooklyn Boy." We are given
a glimpse into the realm of image making as this seemingly ill-suited
actor begins to read the title role in the script with surprising
sensitivity and with an astonishing change of voice and attitude.
Eric, who has been reading the role of the father, is reduced to tears
by the actor’s unexpectedly perceptive performance.
Another wryly comical scene involves Eric and Alison (Graynor), whom
he met at a book signing and has returned with him to his Hollywood
hotel room for sex. Graynor is captivating as she makes a complete
turn around from a rather shallow character into someone whose wizened
contemporary values and wry observations about writers serves to abort
It’s probably good that Mimi Lieber doesn’t go off the deep end by
caricaturing opportunistic kookiness, as Melanie Fine, Eric’s
Hollywood agent, who argues that Eric’s family in the novel is "a
touch too ethnic. It is one thing to be ethnic in a book and another
to be Jewish in a movie." Depth and complexity define Arye Gross’s
meticulously grounded performance as Ira Zimmer, Eric’s childhood
friend, who, despite his friend’s denials, recognizes himself in the
novel. Slightly in awe and also possibly just a little jealous, as
well, of Eric’s success, Ira will not cave in easily to Eric’s
coolness to him or to Eric’s dismissal of his deeply felt religiosity.
Though Ira represents a culture and a religion that Eric has made
expendable, he also proves to be Eric’s saving grace in more ways than
Brooklyn, the city, remains a constant in designer Robert Funicello’s
cleverly evoked settings, in which each scene is framed by the red
brick facade of the Ocean City, Brooklyn, apartment house and every
scene is fueled by an author’s flair for blending rich humor with
genuine heartbreak. ***
– Simon Saltzman
Theater, 261 West 47th Street, New York. Through March 20. $53 to $79.
The key: **** Don’t miss; *** You won’t feel cheated; ** Maybe you
should have stayed home; * Don’t blame us.
A Streetcar Named Desire, Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54, 254
West 54. Previews begin March 26.
All Shook Up, Palace Theater, 1564 Broadway. Previews.
Avenue Q, **** Golden Theater, 252 West 45.
Beauty and the Beast, *** Lunt-Fontanne Theater, Broadway & 46.
Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays, **** Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44.
Extended through May 21.
Chicago, *** Ambassador Theater, 219 West 49.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Hilton Theater, 213 West 42. Previews begin
Dame Edna: Back With a Vengeance, *** Music Box Theater. Extended
through June 4.
Democracy, ** Brooks Atkinson Theater, 256 West 47.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Imperial Theater, 249 West 45.
Doubt, Walter Kerr Theater, 219 West 48. Previews.
Fiddler on the Roof, ** Minskoff Theater, 200 West 45.
Glengarry Glen Ross, Royale Theatre, 242 West 45. Previews begin April
Good Vibrations, Eugene O’Neill Theater, 230 West 49.
Hairspray, *** Neil Simon Theater, 250 West 52.
Jackie Mason Freshly Squeezed, Helen Hayes Theater, 240 West 44.
Julius Caesar, Belasco Theater, 111 West 44. Previews.
La Cage Aux Folles, **** Marquis Theater, Broadway and West 46.
Lennon, Broadhurst Theater, 235 West 44. Previews begin July 7.
Little Women, Virginia Theater, 245 West 52.
Mamma Mia!, *** Winter Garden Theater, 1634 Broadway.
Movin’ Out, *** Richard Rodgers Theater, 226 West 46.
On Golden Pond, Cort Theatre, 138 West 48. Previews bein March 22.
Opens April 18.
Rent, **** Nederlander Theater, 208 West 41.
Spamalot, Shubert Theater, 225 West 44. Previews.
Steel Magnolias, Lyceum Theater, 149 West 45. Previews begin March 15.
Opens April 4.
Sweet Charity, Al Hirschfeld Theater, 302 West 45. Previews begin
The Glass Menagerie, Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47. Previews. Opens
The Light in the Piazza, Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 West 65.
Previews begin March 17.
The Lion King, **** New Amsterdam Theater, Broadway and 42.
The Phantom of the Opera, *** Majestic Theater, 247 West 44.
The Pillowman, Booth Theater, 222 West 45. Previews begin March 21.
The Producers, *** St. James Theater, 246 West 44.
Twelve Angry Men, ** American Airlines Theater, 227 West 42. Extended.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Longacre Theater, 220 West 48.
Previews begin March 12.
Wicked *** Gershwin Theater, 222 West 51.
A Clockwork Orange, 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59.
After Ashley, Vineyard Theater, 108 East 15.
Altar Boyz, Dodger Stages, 340 West 50.
Belfast Blues, 45 Bleecker Street.
Blue Man Group, *** Astor Place, 434 Lafayette, 212-254-4370.
The Controversy of Valladolid, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette.
Cookin’, ** Minetta Lane, 18 Minetta Lane, 212-420-8000.
Dessa Rose, Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, 150 West 65.
Fat Pig, *** Lucille Lortel, 121 Christopher Street.
Forbidden Broadway Special Victims Unit, **** Douglas Fairbanks
Theater, 432 West 42.
Hurlyburly, Theater Row, 410 West 42. Extended through March 19.
Reopens April 4 at 37 Arts, 450 West 37.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, ** Westside Theater, 407 West
Jewtopia, * Westside Theater, 407 West 43rd.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Public Theater, 425 Lafayette.
Lingoland, York Theater, 619 Lexington. Through March 20.
McReele, Laura Pels Theater, 111 West 46.
Melancholia & Dis-Ease, Looking Glass Theater, 422 West 57.
Menopause, the Musical, Playhouse 91, 316 East 91, 212-831-2000.
Modern Orthodox, Dodger Stages, 340 West 50.
Moonlight & Magnolias, Manhattan Theater Club, 131 West 55.
Naked Boys Singing, 47th Street Theater, 304 West 47.
Newsical, Upstairs at Studio 54, 254 West 54.
Nine Parts of Desire, MET, 55 Mercer.
On the Mountain, Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42. Through March 13.
Picon Pie, *** Lamb’s Theater, 130 West 44.
Pieces of Ass, Dodger Stages, 340 West 50.
Pyretown, Urban Stages, 259 West 30, 212-868-4444.
Romance, Atlantic Theater, 336 West 20.
Sabina, 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59.
Shockheaded Peter, Little Shubert Theater, 422 West 42. Previews.
Shylock ***, Perry Street Theater, 31 Perry Street. Extended to April
Slava’s Snowshow, ** Union Square Theater, 100 East 17.
Stomp, *** Orpheum Theater, Second Avenue at 8.
Taxi to Jannah, 59 East 59 Theater.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Second Stage Theater, 307
The Musical of Musicals, *** Dodger Stages, 350 West 50.
The Workroom, Manhattan Theater Source, 177 MacDougal.
Thom Pain, DR2 Theater, 103 East 15.
Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding ** St. Luke’s Church, 308 West 46.
We’re Still Hot, St. Luke’s Theater, 308 West 46.
– Simon Saltzman
Broadway and Off-Broadway reservations can be made through Tele-Charge
at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200; Ticket Central, 212-279-4200; and
For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music, and
dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing arts
hotline operated by the Theater Development Fund. The TKTS same-day,
half-price ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway & 47) is open daily,
3 to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for Wednesday
and Saturday matinees; and 11 a.m. to closing for Sunday matinees.
Cash or Travelers Checks only; no credit cards. Visit TKTS at:
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