Presented by the Barefoot Theatre Company at the Looking Glass Theater, 422 W. 57 St., NYC, July 11-28.
In the 33 years since the late Don Petersen's "Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?" opened on Broadway, all that has changed is that language in the theatre has become rawer. And despite the years that have passed since Al Pacino won a Tony Award as the troubled and violent teenager, Bickham, this role still has the power to unnerve.
Michael LoPorto's production for the Barefoot Theatre Company is powerful, engrossing, and commanding. There's not a loose link in the large cast of 19. Along with set designer Eun-Chung Yoon, he keeps the action close to the audience, which only serves to intensify the drama.
Although the play is described as dramatizing the effect of one English teacher on his students in the racially charged atmosphere of an island narcotics rehabilitation center, it is actually the role of the violent student, Bickham, that is the star part. Just as Pacino did before him, Francisco Solorzano dominates the stage and all his scenes. His Bickham is dangerous, scary, and commanding. His bravura star turn alone makes the evening memorable.
Orlando S. Columbus and Dedra McCord-Ware make an interesting study in opposites as the two drug-addicted lovers—he so optimistic and upbeat, she so pessimistic and cynical. Gilberto Ron, as the dedicated English teacher, and Robert Scott, as the psychiatrist, are believable, but at times seem afraid of their charges—which may be intentional. As the corrupt guard with the truncheon, Michael Kerns seems a bit stereotyped, but his subversive role as the drug connection still rings true.
Yoon's classroom setting, with its graffiti and recognizable furniture, gives the production an air of verisimilitude, as do Victoria Malvagno's costumes. It's hard to believe that this is the first New York revival since the original 1969 production of this pertinent, powerful play.