Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The American Plan (The SOB Review)

The American Plan (The SOB Review) - The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, New York, New York

*** (out of ****)

Leave it to playwright Richard Greenberg to find each subtle shading within the term The American Plan.

For travelers, the "American Plan" has long constituted the type of meal package you were offered with your hotel stay -- breakfast, lunch and dinner would be included. However, among workers in the roaring twenties, it came to describe employers' policies of not negotiating with unions.

On the surface of David Grindley's somewhat lumbering revival of The American Plan, the Catskills getaway for Eva Adler (Mercedes Ruehl) and her flighty daughter Lili (Lily Rabe) would seem to suggest the former meaning. Yet, there's something inherently non-negotiable in this American Plan. When the dashing Nick Lockridge (Kieran Campion) comes across the lake and steals young Lili's heart, Eva's suspicions ultimately leave little room for negotiation in her attempts to protect her daughter from emotional heartbreak.

The real heartbreak is that Lili yearns for nothing more than to escape the clutches of her overprotective mother, a Jewish survivor of Nazi Germany. Greenberg reveals plenty of surprises -- including a particular blend of oppression, self-suppression and self-preservation not atypical for its early sixties timeframe -- which only adds further emotional depth and complexity to his story.

Despite Jonathan Fensom's endlessly revolving stage design, which at times threatens to spin Grindley's direction into tedium, the sparkling performances are enough to make this a very sound and worthy Plan.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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