Review Roundup: John Patrick Shanley's THE PORTUGUESE KID

By: Oct. 25, 2017
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The Portuguese Kid, a new play written and directed by Tony, Pulitzer Prize, and Academy Award winner John Patrick Shanley, just opened last night at MTC at New York City Center- Stage I (131 West 55th Street).

The cast of The Portuguese Kid stars Tony Award winner Jason Alexander (six-time Emmy Award nominee for "Seinfeld," Jerome Robbins' Broadway, Merrily We Roll Along), Pico Alexander (Punk Rock, What I Did Last Summer, Home Again), Aimee Carrero ("Young & Hungry," "Elena of Avalor," and the upcoming "American Horror Story"), three-time Tony Award nominee Sherie Rene Scott(The Front Page, Whorl Inside a Loop, Everyday Rapture), and two time Tony nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Mary Testa (The Government Inspector, First Daughter Suite, Queen of the Mist).

In Providence, Rhode Island, habitually widowed Atalanta (Sherie Rene Scott) pays a visit to her second-rate lawyer Barry Dragonetti (Jason Alexander). Intending to settle her latest husband's affairs, this larger-than-life Greek tightwad quickly becomes a nightmare for her cheesy, self-aggrandizing attorney. Add Barry's impossible Croatian mother (Mary Testa), a dash of current politics and a couple of opportunistic young lovers, and you have in hand a recipe for comic combustion.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Jesse Green, New York Times: But though I laughed when poked to do so, or when Ms. Scott hurled off a terrific line reading, it was not the laughter of pleasure or recognition. It was the kind sitcom characters sometimes cough up at a mortifying wedding - or funeral.

Isabella Biedenharn, Entertainment Weekly: Not every joke lands: A running gag about voting for Trump is funny until it's really not, and Freddie's character sometimes leans a little too far into Italian stereotype territory. Even the titular joke - Barry was mugged by a Portuguese kid years ago and thus assumes everyone he doesn't like might be that kid, all grown up - pales in comparison to far wittier one-liners. By the fourth act, the play's inevitable conclusions have been dragged out just past the point of comfort - and when it tries to tackle more existential questions about life, love, and purpose, it falls short.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: What can I say about a terrible play that made me laugh? That it's a waste of talent and hardly worthy of Jason Alexander's return to the stage for the first time since he replaced Larry David in Fish in the Dark? That it deserves a pass because it's by John Patrick Shanley, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Doubt and an Oscar (plus the devotion of Cher fans everywhere) for Moonstruck? Did I mention it made me laugh, and that I wouldn't necessarily admit it except there were witnesses?

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: There's a lot of professional pizzazz assembled on the Manhattan Theater Club stage for "The Portuguese Kid," the world premiere of the new play written and directed by John Patrick Shanley. There's a strong cast and some high-end design work from John Lee Beatty (sets), William Ivey Long (costumes), and Peter Kaczorpwski (lighting), but all of it is wasted on material that can't begin to measure up to the playwright's best work - think "Moonstruck"; think "Doubt"; think "Outside Mullingar," for Pete's sake. Whatever you do, don't think plot, of which there is none.

Matt Windman, amNY: Watching a silly comedy that most of the audience appears to be enjoying, but which you find pointless, plodding and excessively broad, can be a frustrating and bewildering experience. You wonder, why can't I get into this? Is it me, or is it the play?

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: An underdeveloped doodle that tosses around allusions to Greek mythology as weightlessly as it takes inorganic jabs at Donald Trump, the play squanders the talents of a gifted cast of comedic actors, in which Jason Alexander, making a rare New York stage appearance, is flanked by beloved theater regulars Sherie Rene Scott and human cannon Mary Testa. Under Shanley's pedestrian direction, the ensemble is required to labor so hard breathing life into the material that it could almost be classified as employee abuse.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: John Patrick's Shanley's "The Portuguese Kid" is all about a man and woman who are mismatched from the get-go and never click to make a complete couple. In more ways than one, "The Portuguese Kid," which opened Tuesday at MTC's City Center Stage 1, isn't classic screwball. Shanley, who also directs, has attempted to write a warm-hearted farce. But where the heart ought to be there's nothing but the shifting gears of a playwright pushing characters into outlandish situations that are rarely amusing.

Barbara Schuler, Newsday: Part farce, part rom-com, the occasionally funny but ultimately trivial play moves from run-of-the mill law office to Barry's beach house, to Atalanta's blue-on-blue bedroom and overly ornate backyard (sets by John Lee Beatty), but doesn't really go anywhere that's not completely predictable. Unless you count the jarring intrusion of the political. Atalanta is none too fond of our sitting president, demanding to know who voted for him and describing him in nasty, unflattering terms. Did Shanley (the Tony-winning "Doubt" and Oscar-winning "Moonstruck") really need to go there?

Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: The action climaxes with a sight gag built around what seems to be an invisible prosthetic phallus, to shrieks of laughter (and I do mean shrieks). In moments of eyebrow raising stagecraft, we often wonder 'how'd they do that?' But believe me, we don't want to know.

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