While TACT's piquant production of the caustic comedy makes for a delicious evening at the theater, one may come away more irked than amused, because of how pertinently the play speaks to our current economic crisis. The manner in which greed upends the story's respectable Yankee household sadly parallels how greedy individuals of our day capsized the American economy.
With well-observed portrayals of typical American small-town folks and big-city characters—and their hilariously contrasting attitudes, particularly when it comes to art—the show tells the tale of a country doctor who is visited by a New York art critic, a forger, and a sleazy dealer when it is discovered that the doctor may be in possession of paintings by a deceased artist whose work is suddenly skyrocketing in value. The comic antics are directed with controlled velocity by Jenn Thompson, who never lets the riotous proceedings get so wild as to undermine the elegance of Howard's efficient language, which is where the bulk of the show's sharp humor lies.
The production resides comfortably within Charlie Corcoran's handsomely homey 1930s farmhouse set and is smartly cast with outstanding comedic actors, who all manage to mark their characters with a singular, appealing peculiarity. Most impressive are Cynthia Darlow as the doctor's wife and James Murtaugh, who renders a brilliantly calibrated depiction of the steadfast doctor gradually becoming consumed by greed until he finally goes completely berserk.
Presented by the Actors Company Theatre at the Beckett Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St., NYC. Nov. 11–Dec. 12. Mon., Wed.–Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (Additional performance Tue., Nov. 24, 7:30 p.m.; no performance Thu., Nov. 26.) (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com. Casting by Stephanie Klapper.