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Reviews

The First Jewish Boy in the Ku Klux Klan

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Presented by The Snow White Company at the Homegrown Theater, 2628 Broadway, NYC, Jan. 29-March 5.

This familiar father-son play, set in the dreary middle-class 1950s, displays a classic kind of theatre angst: the "different," quirky, aloof son pitted against the dry, aging, "conformist" dad in a colorless landscape devoid of positives and hope.

You wouldn't think all that given the title, would you? Nevertheless, author Lionel Kranitz does not even include a Ku Klux Klan character in the piece, which is moored to the family's internecine warfare. All we see is Sonny (the son), his dad, his bland, plodding mother, his irritating little brother, and an imaginary baby that is never adequately explained or discussed. It's rather like watching a malevolent two-hour "Father Knows Best," only this time with a faint Jewish touch and an awkward, intermittent wink to Albee.

The problem, in addition to the rather diffuse structure of the piece, is that Kranitz would have been far better off trying to turn this intriguing idea into a drama rather than a comedy. This is a situation that lends itself to serious confrontation and rumination; there is nothing particularly humorous about a member of a persecuted group somehow aligning himself with a group of oppressors. The result, not surprisingly, is that the most effective scenes are deadly serious, as when Sonny and Sam finally snarl at each other about Sonny's decision to thumb his nose at his father and join the Klan.

The performers acquit themselves quite well nonetheless, keeping the action moving briskly and creating a wholly believable and pathetic world of middlebrow chaos. Particularly impressive is Peter Stadlen, very likable and vivid as Sonny despite the rather startling fact that this is his New York debut. The rest of the cast also fares well, with Richard Springle giving the dad a heaping helping of bitterness, and Mary Round giving the mother a touch of needed sweetness.

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