BWW Review: GOLDEN BOY at Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre Company
The quest to achieve the American dream is not a foreign concept, especially in today's society. But everyone's idea of what that dream entails can vary by sex, socioeconomic status and ethnicity. Clifford Odet's 1937 play GOLDEN BOY examines one family's quest to dodge stereotypes and social status and rise with dignity in the process. Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre Company is presenting this fascinating play in a gut wrenching production.
Director Fortunato Pezzimenti guides the story with a nod to film noir, aided by Brian Cavanagh's subtle lighting . Though the script may seem stilted at times to ears of present day audiences, the heart of the piece is exposed with a raw energy. We meet a young Joe Bonaparte who is searching for his purpose in life, and his talent as a violinist isn't enough to help him achieve the success that he yearns for- so he pursues his talents as a scrappy cockeyed boxer.
Anthony Alcocer literally bursts onto the stage with a boxer's rage, desperate to be picked up by Prize Fighting presenter, Tom Moody (Christian Brandjes). The role of Joe fits Alcocer perfectly. His compact body and ruggedness serves as assets in embodying this 21 year old born to an Italian immigrant father, played by Rolando Martin Gomez. Alcocer brings a constant edginess to the role, showing desire, despair and pent up frustration that rounds out this complex character . Mr. Gomez, while suffering with a poor Italian accent, does bring a heart felt performance of a man who only wants happiness for his children.
Brandjes anchors the play as the ringleader and Joe's manager. His gruff command of the situation and guidance for the newbie boxer is complemented by a softer touch in coach Tokio, gently played by David Lundy. Eric Rawski gives a knock out performance as the rich and slimy Eddie Fusselli, who buys in on a piece of Joe, our Golden Boy. Rawski oozes fake charm and power, always dominating the situation.
Cassie Cameron is heartbreaking as Lorna, the moll to Tom. This jersey "tramp," as she refers to herself, is not destined for greatness and settles for loving married Tom, but she ultimately falls in love with Joe. Ms. Cameron's nuanced performance is achingly beautiful at times and appropriately rough around the edges, expertly taking full advantage of a dramatic pause and silence to focus on her inner emotions.
Costumes by Jessica Wegrzyn are spot on, with a dark dingy palate of browns and workaday outfits for the common men but fashionable ensembles for Lorna and Eddie. The large cast plays as a well oiled ensemble, with other notable performances by Gerry Maher, Arin Lee Dandes, and Adam Yellen.
Pezzimenti paces the 3 act play well, cleverly rotating the set pieces in each act to let the audience view the action clearly for most of the play. He never lets the acting become maudlin, allowing for a slow burn as we watch the rise and fall of our Golden Boy. Odets masterfully allows each player to shine, imbuing each with hope for a better life during the Great Depression. Unfortunately, misery wins out in the end, bringing a dramatically charged, sucker punch finale to the evening.
The Irish Classical Theatre Company's production of GOLDEN BOY plays at the Andrews Theatre through Oct 7, 2018. Contact irishclassical.com for more information