Review Roundup: ORPHANS Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
The Broadway production of Lyle Kessler's Orphans starring Alec Baldwin, Ben Foster and Tom Sturridge and directed by Daniel Sullivan, opens tonight, April 18, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (236 West 45th Street). This production will mark the first Broadway staging of the play.
In Orphans, two orphaned brothers are living in a decrepit North Philadelphia row house. Treat, the eldest, (Foster), supports his damaged younger sibling Phillip (Sturridge) by petty thievery, and makes the house a virtual prison for the seemingly simple-minded Phillip. One night he kidnaps a rich older man, Harold (Baldwin), who turns out to have his own motives and becomes the father figure the boys have always yearned for.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Perhaps the participants in this revival felt that they had had enough of fireworks for a while, so they decided to make nice, tread gently and, in the case of Mr. Baldwin, keep a respectful distance from the proceedings. In "Orphans," knives, guns, fists, rope and duct tape are all deployed to violent ends. Yet this version somehow plays like a sentimental sitcom, perhaps a low-rent "Modern Family."...The first problem with Mr. Sullivan's production is that nobody exudes a sense of, or even a sense of hunger for, power. The arguable exception is Mr. Sturridge...Mr. Foster doesn't do intimidating rage so well. His performance feels so inwardly concentrated that Treat seems like a danger only to himself...I assume that Harold was written as a slippery character, but Mr. Baldwin's performance eludes the possibility of our getting any kind of grip on it at all...It's a mutating cartoon of a performance, with only hints of the requisite menace.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: It's a shame that it took 30 years to bring this briskly entertaining, deeply affecting play to Broadway; but at least Orphans has arrived in good hands.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: Baldwin, never shy about speaking his own mind offstage, is fully in his comfort zone. He delivers a wily magnetic star turn.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomgberg: Without a menacing atmosphere, "Orphans" -- with its hermetically sealed environment and elliptical story-telling -- now plays like cut-rate Pinter.
Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: For all the fluency of its craftsmanship, "Orphans" gives the impression of having been knocked together out of spare theatrical parts. Not only is its premise self-evidently derived from Harold Pinter's "The Caretaker," but Mr. Kessler has pinched other elements of the play from sources as diverse as "The Glass Menagerie," "Our Town" and Sam Shepard's "True West." But it's still an exceptionally effective vehicle for three strong actors, and Mr. Baldwin is both strong and moving, playing Harold as if he were Tennessee Williams's Gentleman Caller grown up, gone to seed and stripped of all illusion.
Elisabeth Vincetelli, NY Post: Considering its agitated gestation, it's amazing how smooth "Orphans" is. During rehearsals, actor Shia LaBeouf had well-publicized - by himself - arguments with co-star Alec Baldwin and director Daniel Sullivan. In short order, LaBeouf was out and Ben Foster was in.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Lyle Kessler's play "The Orphans" is apparently the kind of thing movie stars fight to be in. But it's not always clear why we have to fight to get a ticket. It's a testosterone-laden darkly humorous piece that offers three great parts - a mentally challenged young man, a bubbling eruption of male anger and a cool-as-ice older dude - but generates little light. This is a play more fun to act in than watch...The biggest problem here is that the three actors are determined to be in different plays and director Daniel Sullivan hasn't been able to make them gel. Perhaps there wasn't enough time.