by Margaret Croyden
"Match": A Silly Story
Margaret Croyden is a theater reviewer and essayist for the New York Theatre Wire.
a play by Stephen Belber
staring Frank Langella
Plymouth Theater --236 West 45th Street
Give Frank Langella a juicy role, almost a monologue in fact, and he goes to town. "Match" is only worth while if you want to see Langella flit about the stage as Tobi, a retired ballet dancer and teacher reminiscing about his life and career, and telling amusing stories about people, places, and things. In swishing about like a homosexual queen, Langella leaves nothing to the imagination about his sex, his gender, and his interests. Soon a couple arrives, the woman is ostensibly a graduate student doing a thesis about dance, and her husband is a cop. They have come to interview Tobi, so it seems, but they turn into a nosey twosome looking for trouble. It seems that Tobi is accused of having had an affair with the cop's mother, a famous dancer (now deceased) and might be the cop's father, who deserted both mother and child. Hello? A heady mix of a plot is about to unfold. What are we supposed to think? Suddenly this old dancer is a bisexual? Or what? Well O.K. on the stage, all kind of fantasies are possible. To make matters worse, the cop is determined to prove that Tobi is really his father and so he knocks him down and takes a swab of his saliva for a DNA identity test. End first act.
Second Act: the woman is sweet and apologetic, the man is a bum who in addition wants to arrest Tobi for smoking dope, has has gone to get his sample verified. That leaves the young woman and the old guy alone to cozy up to each other in what is portrayed as a sympathetic meeting of the minds. So what do these two talk about? Cunnilingus. Ready for that? Need I continue? As they are about to go to the bedroom, our wicked cop enters, as nasty as ever, but never mind, he will soon change. Are you anxious to know the end? Is Tobi really the father of the cop? Do their DNA samples match? (hence the play's title, get it?) But don't bother about the resolve; it's just as silly as the entire evening.
O.K. Frank Langella is an inventive actor, though he is unconvincing as a dancer. He is too big, too heavy, and doesn't move with grace. He has dozens of pieces of business on stage that are funny. He has a well developed technique and can get a laugh just by raising his eyebrows. There is no doubt he is a professional and that the audience loves him. But for a gifted actor to use his remarkable talent in such a junky play is really unfortunate. Things must be tough all over.
If I might offer some advice to Langella. Stop playing these gay guys in this swishy way (it's not the first time) and do some serious work. You are beginning to be type cast. As for Ray Liotta and Jane Adams as the couple--they are just pawns in the hands of Langella. As for the producers--it's a mystery that they thought this might be a good play. But then this is nothing new for Broadway. They get a star who needs a job, give him tour de force part--and voila, they think they have something. But essentially it's all a waste of talent. [Croyden]
Margaret Croyden's most recent book is "Conversations With Peter Brook, 1970-2000" published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
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