BWW Review: Urban Stages Imports ANGRY YOUNG MAN From London
ANGRY YOUNG MAN, a British play by Ben Woolf, is both entertaining and puzzling. Yuri, a surgeon from a country that isn't disclosed, arrives in London a day ahead of an interview. Since he doesn't realize how far central London is from Stansted Airport, the taxi ride takes almost all of his money, and he finds himself sitting in a park, talking to the ducks.
Enter a liberal do-gooder who makes all sorts of stereotypical assumptions about Yuri as a "refugee," calling him various clichéd non-English names...except for the right one, of course.
Up to that point, I was on board with the premise, but after that, the play veered off into directions that failed to provide a satisfying plot.
Yuri encounters skinheads, who treat him in the way you would expect. There are other stereotypical British characters, so he encounters bigotry of some kind almost everywhere he goes. But in the process, the play is done in such a clowning, Vaudevillian manner that whatever the playwright hoped to communicate is lost.
In London, the play was performed by four men. At Urban Stages, the cast consists of two men and two women. With a mixture of narration and scenes, all four actors trade off playing Yuri, switching frequently throughout. While this is a clever premise, the madcap changes make it confusing to keep track of which actor is playing which character. Also, a male role is played by a woman, and a female role is played by a man. This is funny, but only the first time it's done.
Unfortunately, the point of the play wasn't evident to me. It was written a decade ago, and in these days of increased discrimination against immigrants, the frivolous comedy is uncomfortable. I suppose I expected a comedy with more serious overtones considering the subject matter.
That said, all four actors pull off a very difficult piece, as they seamlessly switch roles and change accents throughout. As directed by Stephen Hamilton, the play requires challenging physicality as well from the actors. They are all immigrants themselves or descendants of immigrants. One is a first generation Greek, another is a Turkish actress on an Artistic Visa, another is of Haitian descent, and another is of Jewish heritage.
The standout in the cast is Christopher Daftsios who has few lines throughout the play, but is the central clown who takes on spraying the cast with water when the narration says it's raining or becoming a sculpture with a crazy expression when the story calls for it. His exceptionally malleable face and body brought Jim Carrey and Bill Irwin to mind.
ANGRY YOUNG MAN runs 75 minutes without an intermission at Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street. It will close on April 9, 2017. Tickets are available on the Urban Stages website.