Humor and heart with the Asolo Rep’s Visiting Mr. Green.
By Kay Kipling
From the opening scene of Visiting Mr. Green, now onstage at the Historic Asolo Theater in an Asolo Rep production, it’s a pleasure to admire not only the actors onstage, but the comic timing of both playwright Jeff Baron and director Howard J. Millman.
That first scene sets up the premise of the two-character play in precisely doled out amounts of humor, with a clear look ahead to possible pathos. Mr. Green (David S. Howard) is an elderly widower living alone in his Upper West Side apartment in New York, still in mourning for the loss of his longtime wife. His “visitor,” Ross (Kraig Swartz), is a young, up-and-coming business exec whose punishment for almost hitting Green with his car is community service, i.e., checking in with his almost-victim weekly, making sure he’s eating properly and taking care of himself.
That proves quite a task, as Mr. Green, an observant Orthodox Jew with a full portion of cranky stubbornness, doesn’t want to be looked after. There are times when Ross (a fellow Jew, but a more secular one) almost walks away from his duty—but we know he won’t, and that in time a relationship will blossom that will help feed both their needs for family and understanding.
The revelation of the nature of those needs is not exactly a shock (certainly not to those who saw the Asolo’s earlier production of the play, also starring Howard, a decade or so ago); it’s pretty easy to guess both of the secrets the characters have been hiding (I won’t give them away here). But the actors work so well together that we’re not cheated of the emotions we want to feel even if we know what’s going to happen. And, as the many international productions of the play demonstrate, there’s something about estranged families, especially when the estrangement is between parent and child, that speaks to us all.
Visiting Mr. Green continues through March 1; call 351-8000 or go to asolo.org for ticket info.