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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Brooklyn Boy

Brooklyn Boy is very much a ‘character’ play, which is to say that there is a lot more conversation than action. The dialogue feels as if it runs pretty long sometimes, but the characters are so rich that the audience stays fully present in the scenes. Lead actor Victor Warren’s performance, as a Jewish novelist whose personal life takes a dive at the height of his professional success, is outstanding. He really makes the audience understand his pain: that he is incapable of having a meaningful conversation with his father until his father is dead; he is lonely because his wife has started divorce proceedings against him; and his need for approval from those in his old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Warren uses these neighbors as the characters in his semi-autobiographical New York Times Bestselling novel.

This play is for anyone who has worked assiduously to exit the dead-end city where he grew up; struggled for acceptance and forgiveness from a father; changed so much that he can hardly relate to a childhood friend; and generally feels that his path from childhood to adulthood has mainly been about escape. If any of this sounds familiar, you will be able to relate to Eric Weiss, Margulies’ protagonist. It is very important that as an audience member, you are able to relate, because that is the heart of this play-Weiss having a terribly difficult time trying to connect with the loved ones in his life.

It is fascinating to watch an otherwise brilliant middle – aged man fail at relationships, for it provokes the question of what really measures the success of a man’s life. The play is not nearly so direct as to inquire of the audience ‘what is the value of money and fame without dear ones to share it with,’ but one cannot leave the theatre without seeing that that question in mind.

Director Adam Zahler’s cast has remarkable chemistry with one another and with the audience. David Kristin, as Manny Weiss, is a familiarly frustrating Dad, and his performance is as remarkable as Warren’s. Not only do the two look alike, but their Brooklyn accents match to a T, a credit to both of their acting capabilities. Also notable are Joy Lamberton, as Alison, an energetic UCLA undergraduate junior that the protagonist takes up to his hotel room after a book reading, and Ellen Colton, as Melanie Fine, a Hollywood insider who tries to convince the protagonist to “tone down” the “Jewishness” of Brooklyn Boy for the big screen. Frankly, these characters all sound a tad boring on paper, but on stage, they are some of the most humorous and human ones you will ever encounter.

Brooklyn Boy could have easily left the audience in a state of depression. But, because of Margulies’ characters and the impeccable work of everyone involved in the Speakeasy production-and I specifically call attention to those in charge of costume, lighting, and sound, for the details punctuate direction and performance, the audience found themselves laughing so often that they truly understood how thin is the line between drama and comedy. For those of you who can sit for a while and really listen and watch a play that is driven by writer’s journey to self-knowledge, I highly recommend Brooklyn Boy. It will touch your heart, and make you realize that there are some fantastic young playwrights out there creating work comparable to that of the greats.

Brooklyn Boy, presented by the Speakeasy Stage Company, at the Roberts Studio in the Boston Center for the Arts’ Calderwood Pavillion, runs through April 1. Tickets range from $42-$46. For more information, go to bostontheatrescene.com.