Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Visiting Mr Green -Review- Customs House

Visiting Mr Green
Customs House
27 July 2011

Mr Green is an 86 year Jewish Dry Cleaner who wanders into New York Traffic.
Ross Gardiner is the 29 year old Business Executive that nearly runs him down and is charged with reckless driving.
Ross is sentenced to a period of community service which requires him to visit Mr. Green once a week, to shop for his groceries and to clean his apartment.
At first, Mr. Green resents the intrusion and is hostile toward Ross, but when he learns that the young man is also Jewish he warms to him and a bond is formed...until it emerges that Ross is gay.
What starts as a comedy about two men, who could hardly stand being in the same room together, becomes a gripping, heart-warming drama as they come to understand, respect and finally care for each other.

What strikes me about tonight's play is the careful use of is all over the place, sometimes in a great way, sometimes to the negative. Hope productions (G. Philip Hope plays Mr Green) brings to the Customs House a great play, that could be a little bit greater, a bit more thought through. The concept is superb, in my introduction it gives you everything you need to know about the play, and what to expect, but I was left thinking it could have been better.
Lets get down to the bones of it G.Philip Hope and Collin Baxter (playing Ross Gardiner) were superb in the play, they were great at delivering everything that it said on the tin (to coin a phrase from Ronseal) from the meeting in the lovely setting of Mr Green's humble abode in New York, that went on to explore the relationship between them that included the knowledge that Gardiner wasn't just Jewish, but homosexually Jewish, to the olde worlde concept of what happened in past, stays in the past ( Gardiner finds out that Mr Green has a daughter,with a multitude of grandchildren.. but he has frozen her out for 30 years, because she dared to marry a non Jewish man) to the superb interaction of stranger meets stranger, friend meets (and makes) friend.
Where the play tonight fell down a little bit for me was the time in between scenes. The lights went down and the sentimental music came on. This was great for the first time, you had time to reflect on what you had just seen, to empathise with the realness of the characters. This short time was needed to refresh the stage and have a quick costume change, but it took away some of the likeness of the study. It was almost like opening a window to let in the light, but instead the day had turned a darker shade of grey. The subsequent times were wasted space and could have been handled better. The audience were enthralled in the comings and goings of Green and Gardiner (a good name from a landscape architect firm me thinks!) but not in the time apart from them.
Baxter and Hope starred in this production pretty much how Jeff Baron wrote it, with compassion and hope for the future, the soul searching that both characters had to do to win over each other was a joy to see, it was really real, something that you could well imagine yourself partaking in. The humour surrounding the age/sex and religion was careful not to shock but enough to engage and make you think.
Great technical work from the Customs House in-team of wizardry on the buttons (Martin Hogg on both sound and light). Stage managed and Assistant produced by Rebecca Hope.

Hope is a big word, Hope Theatrical Productions have brought a great play that conjures up so much belief in our fellow man, that you want to embrace the whole thing and spit it out, tell everybody about it...just go and see will know what I mean.

Plays until Saturday 30th.

Michael Hunter

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