Unlikely Friendship Blooms in “Visiting Mr. Green” at The Colony Theatre

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amy1101BY AMY LYONS

An old man, a young man, and a sea of generational differences. This is the basic narrative foundation upon which Jeff Baron’s “Visiting Mr. Green” is built. It’s a sweet two-hander — if a bit past its prime — about bridging the generational gaps that can strand parents and their offspring on separate islands of anger and regret.

The current production at the Colony Theatre finds Jack Axelrod stealing the show as Mr. Green, an 86-year-old New York Jew with an unsubtle aversion to Goys and non-Kosher food.  Green has been alone since his wife died, and his apartment is riddled with piles of old phone books, stacks of unopened mail and a general air of stale gloom. Enter twenty-something Ross Gardiner (Antonie Knoppers), who has hit Green with his automobile and landed in the old man’s employ. The courts ordered Gardiner to visit Green weekly and serve as a part-time caretaker  to make up for his negligent driving.

Antonie Knoppers and Jack Axelrod star in the Colony Theatre Production of VISITING MR. GREEN, written by Jeff Baron and directed by David Rose and now playing at the Colony Theatre in Burbank.   PHOTO CREDIT:  Michael Lamont

Antonie Knoppers and Jack Axelrod star in the Colony Theatre Production of VISITING MR. GREEN, written by Jeff Baron and directed by David Rose and now playing at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. Photo credit: Michael Lamont

Gardiner does his weekly penance grudgingly at first, but soon takes a shine to the Grinch of New York. Green remains a chilly recipient of Gardiner’s groceries and clean-up services until Gardiner reveals his Jewish roots, promptly eliciting Mazeltovs and boyish grins from Green.

As the two cement a friendship, Gardiner feels comfortable revealing his homosexuality to Green, a slip in judgment that threatens to destroy the friendship. Green subsequently reveals family secrets to which Gardiner takes offense, sending the two men off to the ideological races.

It’s an oft-told story and one that feels slightly tired, but it’s hard not to enjoy seeing a set-in-his ways character recognize that a shift in thinking is the only way to find joy in the twilight of his life. Axelrod is the heart and soul of this production, squinting and limping his way around the stage, convincing us that a change of heart is so hard for his character that it could be his undoing. Knoppers holds his own, but his performance can’t touch that of the older actor. David Rose directs with a keen attention to pacing and the set is a David Potts masterpiece.

Through September 27 at the Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank. Call (818)558-7000.  www.colonytheatre.org

Amy Lyons is a professional freelance journalist and theatre critic, with a degree in Theatre Arts and English from UMass, Boston. She started her journalism career at The Boston Globe and is a member of the Drama Critics Circle. Her articles, theatre reviews and photos regularly appear in numerous publications, including the Beverly Press, Valley Life Magazine, the Santa Monica Mirror and www.nohoartsdistrict.com


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

  • http://www.jackiehouchin.com Jackie Houchin

    Thanks for the honest review, Amy. Perhaps the theme is “tired,” but you made the performers and the plot interesting enough to make me want to see the play.

    PS: Where did I get that the Colony Theatre had closed it’s doors???

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