Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Dark Drama, with a Lot of Laughs

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Dark Drama, with a Lot of Laughs

Article excerpt


Anyone schooled in television sitcoms could probably guess the basic premise of Israel Horovitz's "My Old Lady," the final show of the Banyan Theater Company's 2015 season, from the get-go.

The indigent Mathias Gold (Peter Thomasson) arrives from New York at the Paris apartment he has inherited upon the death of his estranged father, hoping to make a quick killing on its sale. He is deeply disappointed to find it occupied by a 92-year-old French woman, Mathilde Girard (Donna Gerdes), and her daughter, Chloe (Lilian Moore), who, by way of an arrangement known as Viager, are entitled to remain in the apartment until Madame Girard's death.

From the minute Mathias, a thrice-divorced failed novelist who drinks too much, and Chloe, a brittle and vinegary school teacher who doesn't suffer fools gladly, clash it's a pretty safe bet that these two unhappy, unfulfilled and lonely souls are going to end up in a romantic entanglement. How that relationship evolves, however - - and the personal histories that have brought them to this seemingly predestined meeting -- is less simplistic. The sitcom funny one-liners of the first act eventually evolve into a dark and poignant family saga of unreconciled issues of love and estrangement and an unsettling indictment of human self-indulgence.

I don't want to give away more than that, or reveal the conclusion which, for those who've seen it, differs slightly from that of the 2014 film of the same name (starring Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas). Horovitz wrote that screenplay too, then revised the current stage version which wanders unnecessarily, detouring into what appears to be the playwright's personal agenda about the French people's treatment of Jews during World War II. To my mind, a judicious trimming would not be out of order.

However, the issues of the play's pacing and flow have more to do with the script than with the direction of this production by Don Walker, who had an onstage role in the Banyan's first production of this season, "Age. …

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