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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Review of Golden Boy

Bartlett Sher directs a revival of Clifford Odets's Golden Boy at the Belasco Theatre in New York, New York. Seth Numrich plays the conflicted Joe Bonaparte, a young man torn between pursuing a career as a musician or one as a boxer. The advisers in his life each have plans for the young man, who is tortured by a fleeting love affair.

With few exceptions, the cast is strong. Numrich encapsulates the intelligent Italian-American lead. But, of course, this is a boxing blog, not a theater review site. As a boxer, Numrick is an excellent actor and should keep his day job. His hand speed makes George Foreman look like Manny Pacquiao. But he looks the part of boxer and offers a poignant sensitivity to the travails of a man in the trade. One miss takes place after Bonaparte's second fight with the Baltimore Chocolate Drop. Numrick's back is heavily covered in splotches of blood, a rare occurrence in real pugilism.

Tony Shalhoub is wonderful as Bonaparte's father, affecting a convincing Italian accent and the concerned disposition of a fighter's parent. Yvonne Strahovski plays Lorna Moon, the love interest, and is equally persuasive in the role. Anthony Crivello is menacing as the gangster Eddie Fuseli. Danny Burstein treats the role of Bonaparte's trainer, Tokio, with a realistic fatherly disconnect that many trainers display towards their charges. Danny Mastrogiorgio (Tom Moody) looks and sounds like a boxing manager, but his cadence and elocution was out of step with the rest of the cast.

Jews are sprinkled into the play. Bonaparte gets his first chance to fight when a boxer named Kaplan injures his hand. Ned Eisenberg plays Bonaparte's promoter, Roxy Gottlieb, who is Bob Arum meets a Don Knotts character. Michael Aronov is an over-the-top whiny Siggy, Bonaparte's Jewish brother-in-law. Jonathan Hadary is the Bonapartes' neighbor, Mr. Carp, and conveys a man with a dry ironic wit.

The set design is expertly done. It takes one back to the dim, hard life of the first part of the twentieth century in New York. During the foggy street scenes, the traffic lights don't change, which would drive a motorist insane. But beyond nitpicking, the design adds to the sense of doom that plagues Joe Bonaparte's struggle to understand himself.

The play is in previews and will open on December 6. For more information, click here.

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