Man and Boy
Terence Rattigan, a prominent mid-20th-century English playwright whose extensive body of work has regrettably fallen out of fashion, deserves a second look. It’s just a shame that, out of all his plays, the Roundabout Theatre Company chose to revive “Man and Boy,” a minor 1963 flop.
In spite of its contemporary relevance, the play really isn’t very good, and Maria Aitken’s stale production comes off as merely another showcase for Frank Langella.
Set in a basement apartment in Greenwich Village during the Depression, Basil Anthony, a young male with socialist leanings, is stupefied one night to find his long-estranged father, Gregor Antonescu — a world-famous Romanian-born financier — hiding out from the police and press in Basil’s dilapidated home after his financial misconduct has been revealed.
Rattigan presents Gregor as a selfish, unforgivable character who goes so far as to use his son as bait to trap a colleague with homosexual leanings into accepting a bad deal.
By the end, Gregor — after rejecting his son’s need for affection following years of neglect — walks off to escape, surrender or perhaps commit suicide.
The relationship between Gregor and Basil has obvious parallels to Bernard Madoff and his late son Mark. But besides some chat about Gregor’s desperate situation, nothing really occurs in the largely static play, and the father-son relationship comes off as superficial.
Langella, who triumphed on Broadway five years ago in “Frost/Nixon,” plays Gregor with a confident ease and swagger. Even in the midst of turmoil, he can still negotiate a good deal.
Adam Driver brings a burning intensity to Basil, stressing the character’s pent-up anger and hidden desire for fatherly affection.
Here’s a thought: Instead of reviving a mediocre drama with vague parallels to the Madoffs, why not write a new one about them?
If you go: “Man and Boy” plays at the American Airlines Theatre through Nov. 27. 227 W. 42nd St., 212-719-1300, roundabouttheatre.org.