Monday, June 11, 2007

The Return of the Prodigal

Don’t expect this prodigal son to fall on his face and cry out: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” Oh, no. This young man feels fully entitled to the fatted calf and is willing to stoop to blackmail to get it in this excellent New York premiere of St. John Hankin’s 1905 play.
Roderick Hill as Eustace Jackson is one of those villains you love to hate. Right from the start when he returns home penniless, having muddied his clothes and pretended to faint to get the sympathy of his family, he’s unrepentant. He lounges around the house expecting the servants and his sister to wait on him, and refuses to even consider working, saying he’s already failed at everything he’s tried while in Australia for five years. The suspense surrounds who will win, Eustace or his father, who wants to throw him out but over whom Eustace holds a trump card.
This, like all the shows I’ve seen by the Mint Theater Company, is first rate throughout -- the acting, sets, lighting, the whole production. I had lunch with Franny Sternhagen last June and we were talking theatre, naturally, and she said this assurance of excellence was why she was willing to perform at the Mint even though the pay is so small, as it typically is off-Broadway, especially in such a small space. We never have anything but the highest expectations when we go to one of their shows (or appear in one of them) and we are never disappointed. You won’t be either.
“The Return of the Prodigal” continues through July 8.

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