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Review - Him


I'll spare you any idioms regarding the distance between apples and trees while examining the newest work of Daisy Foote, the playwright who carries on the lineage of one of America's treasured dramatist, the late Horton Foote. But comparison is inevitable as the daughter's most recent work has a similar voice to that of her father; just differently accented.

Daisy Foote's Him may be set in rural New Hampshire, as opposed to Horton Foote's preferred locale of East Texas, but there is still the same kind of comic/tragic family politics afoot. And the playwright's sister, HAllie Foote, who made a career out of giving memorable performances in their father's works, plays a juicy role very similar to the type she's feasted on in the past.

This time Foote appears as Pauline, the eldest of three siblings living together in a home adjacent to the family's financially failing grocery store. Never married and haunted by thoughts of her stillborn child from years ago, Pauline has filled in for her deceased mother in being the adult around her brothers. She does have her fun, girlish moments when going out with the youngest, Henry (Tim Hopper), a gay man with no romantic prospects in their small town and little motivation in life, but she's all authority when trying to keep cheerful and carefree mentally challenged middle child Farley (Adam LeFevre) out of trouble. When she's not looking, though, Farley impregnates his similarly challenged friend, Louise (Adina Verson).

The title character is their dying father who remains unseen in his room, having suffered a stroke, but each of his children has a moment reciting a passage from his journal, revealing family history and secrets to the audience.

The main friction arises because Pauline, the only one prepared to manage the family's dwindling finances, wants to build on the land she and her brothers inherit once their father dies, but Henry can legally stand in the way, wishing to adhere to the man's wish that the mountain land be kept in its natural splendor.

Director Evan Yionoulis' sturdy production is well-played by a strong ensemble, but the play is too slow in introducing and developing its primary conflict and there is a noticeable lack of empathy for anyone in the quartet. There's a bit of humor in the family portrait, but no warmth or dramatic crackle in a story that fails to match its interesting possibilities.

Photos by James Leynse: Top: HAllie Foote and Tim Hopper; Bottom: Adina Verson and Adam LeFevre.

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"We've all been called man-haters. There was one point in my career, also, where I realized a certain breed of critic would project a sinister breed of feminism on everything I did."

-- Theresa Rebeck

The grosses are out for the week ending 10/14/2012 and we've got them all right here in's grosses section.

Up for the week was: EVITA (6.7%), CYRANO DE BERGERAC (2.4%), ONCE (0.5%), WICKED(0.1%),

Down for the week was: BRING IT ON THE MUSICAL (-20.6%), THE HEIRESS (-12.0%), ANNIE (-10.3%), MAMMA MIA! (-10.0%), WHO'S AFRAID OF Virginia Woolf? (-9.6%), GRACE (-6.9%), CHICAGO (-5.4%), MARY POPPINS (-4.6%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-4.2%), NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT (-3.7%), CHAPLIN (-3.0%), PETER AND THE STARCATCHER (-2.8%), AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE (-2.5%), War Horse (-2.1%), JERSEY BOYS (-1.9%), THE LION KING (-0.8%), SPIDER-MAN TURN OFF THE DARK (-0.3%), ROCK OF AGES (-0.1%),

Stephen Sondheim's "Uptown, Downtown," that axed-from-Follies number about a woman who splits her personality between Schlitz and The Ritz, might well apply to the most recent plays of A.R. Gurney.

Uptown, in front of Primary Stages audiences at 59E59, Gurney presents civilized comedies drawn from his WASPy Buffalo upbringing. But downtown at the Flea Theatre, he flicks satirical darts via near-futuristic fantasies.

There's no great mystery as to where the playwright is headed in Heresy, his latest Flea offering, as soon as it's revealed that parents named Mary and Joseph are trying to find out why their son Chris was arrested by Homeland Security.

The patient carpenter (Steve Mellor) and his take-charge wife (Annette O'Toole) arrive in a comfortably dignified setting known as the Liberty Lounge to try and get some information from the local prefect, who is also an old buddy named... Well, let's just say his nickname back in the day was Ponty (Reg E. Cathey). Also along is Ponty's boozy socialite wife, Phyllis (Kathy Najimy), a character you might consider an illegal alien who has crossed the 14th Street border from one of Gurney's uptown plays. (The very amusing Najimy has already left the play to take some television work, and has been replaced by Karen Ziemba.)

Taking notes of the meeting is a young, efficient orderly named Mark (Tommy Crawford), freely adapting what he sees and hears into his own story-telling style. Eventually we meet Pedro (Danny Rivera) and Lena (Ariel Woodiwiss), whose relationships with the never-seen Chris draw the expected parallels.

There are enough funny lines in the script and clever moments in director Jim Simpson's production to carry us to the thinly sliced meat of the matter; that Chris was videoed preaching some radical notions and it went viral on the internet, prompting a need to hide Him someplace, as they say, for his own safety.

Fortunately, Gurney doesn't slam us too severely with his message and the 80-minute piece comes off like an extended post-Weekend Update SNL sketch. But the cast seems to be having a fun time with it and audiences who enjoy their mindless fun mixed with a bit of cautionary tale can do likewise.

Photos by Hunter Canning: Top: Reg E. Cathey, Annette O'Toole and Danny Rivera; Bottom: Steve Mellor, Kathy Najimy and Reg E. Cathey.

Click here to follow Michael Dale on Twitter.

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