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A CurtainUp Review
The Young Man from Atlanta
By Deirdre Donovan
The Young Man from Atlanta takes place in Houston in the spring of 1950. World War II is over, Harry S. Truman is president, and Houston is a city that is bustling with life and commerce. Sixty-four-year-old Will Kidder (Aidan Quinn), a proud Republican, lives in this booming tropolis and works in a wholesale grocery business he helped found. He has just bought a new house to the tune of $100,000. Lily Dale (Kristine Nielsen), his spoiled 58 year-old wife, fussily surveys its interiors. She is the theatrical cousin of Ibsen's Nora, shorn of the door slamming.
They[re still grieving for their son Bill, , a World War II hero who lived in a boarding house in Atlanta and drowned six months earlier while on a business trip in Florida under questionable circumstances. Will thinks it was a suicide but never shares this with Lily Dale. Bill's roommate, Randy Carter, the unseen title character of the play, longs to talk w with them about their son. While Will resents this but Lily finds it a comfort and secretly has been giving Randy money for his faux personal and family problems.
Their grief is just one of the ways the Kidders' lives are unsettled. Just ten minutes into the play Will gets fired from his job and is replaced by a younger man, Tom Jackson (Dan Bittner). And, to add insult to injury, Tom is a colleague whom he trained in the wholesale grocery business. Yes, Will is offered a settlement but he refuses out of stubborn pride. What's more Will has a heart condition, and when his career plummets in leaps and bounds, he suffers a mild heart attack. The rest of the play revolves around Will trying to get back on his feet and how he deals with his wife, relatives, colleagues, and the Young Man from Atlanta who suddenly materializes in Houston.
Aidan Quinn, playing Will Quinn, imbues his character with a Texan-size ego and the vulnerability of an aging man who has lost his only son. Kristine Nielsen, best known for her comic roles, is fine as the spoiled wife, , mother, and lapsed artist (She composed music and played the piano before Bill's death) who's struggling to survive an unspeakable tragedy.The supporting actors are first-rate, but Stephen Payne as Lily Dalee's step-father Pete Davenport, deserves special mention for his dry delivery of lines and being a kind of truth-teller in the play.
Jeff Cowie's set, lit by David Lander, mirrors the dreams and disappointments of the Kidders. You see Texan exuberance in the furniture and accoutrements at Will's office and grandeur at the couple's new house, ironically juxtaposed with their unpacked cardboard boxes. Van Broughton Ramsey's costumes bring out the personality of each character, whether it's the proper clothes for Will and Lily Dale or the worn-out threads of their former cook, Etta Doris (Pat Bowie).
If the 1950 Houston setting makes this play a bit remote from the audience's experiences, so much the better. Living in New York in the two thousands is far different than living large in Texas in the mid-twentieth century. But Foote surely wasn't thinking about whether his play would fly or be popular a quarter century after he penned it. He always was more concerned with confirming the human condition, exploring social issues (the unspoken understanding in this drama is that Bill was a closeted homosexual), and telling the truth in the heart's core.
Wilson's revival of Young Man, which runs through December 15th, might not be a mood-elevator for the holidays. But it definitely illuminates the inner turmoil of a middle-class American family, hailing from 1950 Houston. And it can make you marvel at the resilience of the human spirit.
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The Young Man from Atlanta byv Horton Foote
Directed by Michael Wilson.
Cast: Devon Abner as Ted Cleveland Jr., Dan Bittner as Tom Jackson, Pat Bowie as Etta Doris, Kristine Nielsen as Lily Dale, Jon Orsini as Carson, Larry Pine as Pete Davenport, Aden Quinn as Will Kidder.
Jeff Cowie -Scenic Design
Van Broughton Ramse- Costume Design
David Lander-Lighting Design
John Gromada -Sound Design & Original Music
oduction Stage Manager - Robert Bennett
Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes, 1 intermission
The Irene Diamond Stage aat The Pershing Square Signature Center 480 West 42nd Street -- From 11/0t/19; opening 11/24/19; closing 12/08/19. Original Music). The Production Stage Manager is Robert Bennett . Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes, 1 intermission
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