Visiting Mr. Green by Jeff Baron is a play I had never heard of before seeing it listed in Spotlight Players’ season. So I was very surprised to learn, through a Google search, that it is one of the most frequently produced plays in the world. According to Wikipedia: “The play has gone on to have over 300 productions in 37 countries and been translated into 22 languages.” So one must say that the human foibles and conflicts presented in this work have a very universal appeal.
This is a tale of two men who carry profound troubles in their souls and in their hearts. So, it can be said, do we all. Mr. Green, whose first name we are never told, is an elderly man in his 80’s, a devout Jew, a recent widower, and very alone. Ross Gardiner is a younger man in his 30’s, a Jew merely of unbringing, single, and very alone. It is the reasons that they are alone that give the play it’s essential circumstance and point of interest, for Mr. Green has rejected his only daughter (and her offspring) for having done the sin of marrying a non-Jew and Mr. Gardiner has had to reject his natural bearing of being gay.
Spotlight Players’ production is wonderfully staged by director Brent Wooldridge, on a terrifically appointed set by Susan Yeaw, with sure-footed portrayals by Dave Harold as Mr. Green and Damon Dennin as Ross Gardiner. Much can be said for these two actors’ deft performances. They are ideally matched, in synch with their characters’ arcs and in step with each other. Director Wooldridge must have been very happy to have these two men available for his project.
Dave Harold is, frankly, an older actor with much stage experience and an easy approach to his craft. His Mr. Green is well thought out, especially in the scenes about his turmoil. It is noted in the program that this is his second time playing Mr. Green. It certainly shows in his understanding of this man. Mr. Harold is a much respected actor in the Indianapolis theatre community, and although I have only had the privilege of working with him one time, I have seen several of his other appearances and have always been impressed.
Damon Dennin takes on a very difficult role in the play and delivers a seamless performance. Most impressive is a very long and dramatic monologue regarding what it is like to be gay in his situation, with conflicts from parents, work-mates, business dealings and the like. This section alone was such an impressive display of acting skills, with perfect use of body language, facial expression, tone, pace and emotion.
As credible as the acting was, I truly wish I loved the play as much. I do not think it is a bad story, or a flawed theme. But, in my opinion, it would make a better movie than it does a stage play. It is a script that is never great, never awful, even very good at times, but numerous short scenes, long scene changes (necessary to accommodate the many costume changes as the story marches through time), and as a New York magazine review by John Simon pointed out: “by-the-numbers playwriting where everything inches predictably from dot to connectable dot” work against it. It is a truly uninspired piece of literature, formula derived and predictable.
That said, Mr. Wooldridge and crew do make us appreciate the wonderful actors and craftsmen we have in our amazing theatre community. If you have not seen the show as of yet, note that there is only one more weekend to attend – May 20 and 21 at 8pm and May 22 at 2pm. Call 767-2774 to leave a message for reservations. Go to witness some wonderfully skilled local actors.