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Shows Worth Seeing:

Man and Boy

By Terence Rattigan
American Airlines Theatre
227 W. 42nd St.
Box office: (212) 719-1300

This workmanlike 1963 morality tale about a sociopathic mogul of international finance is barely more than a competent “social drama.” Yet it does have a compelling central character, and given the economic headlines of recent years, the logic of reviving it is undeniable. The protagonist is a depression-era Romanian named Gregor Antonescu, whose financial empire is a flimsy lattice of Ponzi schemes that will destroy thousands of investors and cause widespread financial panic when they collapse. The jig is basically up as the action begins, with Antonescu on the run. Faster than you can say “Bernie Madoff,” though, he hatches a plan to save himself by showing up unannounced at the Greenwich Village apartment of his estranged son, planning to hold a crucial business meeting there. No need to recount details of the meeting, which involves crude homosexual blackmail, or the reunion with the son, which devolves into crude Freudian clichés. Rattigan isn’t interested enough in the plot or most of the play’s characters to make them sparkle or spring to life.

Antonescu is the one exception. The text examines his villainous particularities from so many different angles that he becomes a delectable treat for the right actor—and Frank Langella is unquestionably that actor. He knows exactly how to flesh out what is merely hinted at in the text, building on a surface of suave boardroom charm with fleeting hints of repellent oiliness, raging viciousness, tender sincerity, grim determination, calculating coolness, and much, much more. Langella’s performance is endlessly interesting, providing in the end that all-important tincture of surprise that the play lacks. The feat of self-creation behind this masterly performance is the marvel of the evening.



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