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Visiting Mr. Green
ff Baron's two-hander might not be the most revelatory work in dramatic literature. It also provokes the wrong kinds of questions, for example why its younger character--an American Express exec--doesn't carry a cellphone. But the script also contains a substantial amount of universal material. And the guidance of director Caryn Desai gives it heft and considerable polish, in particular refining its weak, rough-edged scene breaks. Mr. Green is a recently widowed octogenarian, whose empty refrigerator and kitchen cabinet filled with Premium crackers speak of his loneliness and resignation, but whose slashing wit enables him to occupy his own off-kilter but eminently sensible universe ("I'm supposed to pay good money to get wrong numbers?" he says of his refusal to keep a working phone in his home). His visitor is the young exec, Ross, saddled with community service to erase a reckless driving charge, who will attend to Green once a week for six months, perhaps bringing him a meal or tidying up, perhaps foisting upon him a bit of companionship. The joy here is in the characters, in watching their arcs, and in observing the two artists who paint in hearty tones. Jack Axelrod is perfection as Mr. Green. His characterization is quintessential Yiddish theatre: the shrugging shoulders, the meaningful glares, the ability to lengthen the word "no" into five musical syllables. Axelrod superbly creates physical frailty: an almost imperceptible effort to catch his breath, a quick adjustment to keep his balance, a tired tilt of his head, a weakening in the knees. Whatever substitutions, whatever techniques he uses, his portrayal is deep, true, and undeniably gorgeous. David Heymann at first seems a rather bland Ross, but it is most likely his character's early efforts to fade into Green's flowery wallpaper. Soon the quips pour forth, delivered by Heymann as meatily as the meals he brings from Fine & Shapiro. The stab-in-the-heart pain of Ross' inability to be himself when around his parents is created even more by Heymann's subtle, no-nonsense choices than by the script. Green's Upper West Side apartment is finely wrought by designer Susan Gratch, further warmed by dozens of props (uncredited), including fragile old letters and the neighborhood deli grocery bags. Lighting by Debra Garcia Lockwood is realistic and nostalgic; the subtle sound design by Paul Fabre includes sweet music and a NY soundscape. And to Desai, considering the spot-on ethnicity gently welling up onstage, may we just say, "Funny, you don't look Jewish
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