by Louise, Director of Operations
Most people seem to say two things when you mention the new production of Orphans on Broadway:
1) Isn’t Alec Baldwin in that?
2) Isn’t that the show Shia LaBeouf quit/was fired from?
I’ll admit, I barely knew what Orphans was about other than a very basic plot synopsis prior to my arrival at the Schoenfeld last night. I’ll even admit that I bought my ticket primarily because of my love for 30 Rock. I almost hesitate to tell you what the show is about, because seeing it without knowing what to expect was such a powerful experience. But I will do my best to give you an overview without spoiling the surprises.
Treat (Ben Foster) and Phillip (Tom Sturridge) are brothers living in a dilapidated row house in northern Philadelphia. Though they are quite young, it seems they’ve been on their own for a long time – they were abandoned by their father and their mother has been dead since they were children. Treat, the older brother, holds the role of caretaker in a vice grip, picking pockets to put food (mostly Starkist tuna and Hellman’s mayonnaise) on the table. Treat’s volatile temper and need to be in control have relegated Phillip to an eternal childhood – he never even leaves the house.
In an attempt to step up his game from petty crimes to something grander, Treat brings home a drunken older gentleman named Harold (Alec Baldwin) with a plan to hold him for ransom. After he passes out, Treat and Phillip tie Harold to a chair and investigate his briefcase of stocks and bonds, excited for the treasure Treat feels sure is coming their way. However, the power begins to shift the moment Harold regains consciousness. And, as I really want you to go and see this show for yourself – that’s all I’ll say.
As I’ve already confessed, Alec Baldwin was my impetus to see this show and he did not disappoint me. His command of the stage is as enticing as his command of the screen, and every syllable he speaks is perfectly delivered. While this play has nothing in common with Baldwin’s most well-known project of late, 30 Rock, there are even some moments where his character’s approach to his situation will make Jack Donaghy fans smile. Ben Foster is an admirable Treat and gives real content to the character’s anger issues – even while much of what he says and does seem like senseless violence and aggression, you never doubt that there is much more to it.
But what I really want to talk about is Tom Sturridge. Sturridge’s character, Phillip, a shut-in since childhood with no education or interaction with the outside world, leaps about the set like a wild animal – to get across the room, he climbs on to the back of the couch, bursting through the air, and lands neatly and squarely on the windowsill. When he speaks he flawlessly combines the innocence of a child with the longing of an adult who knows there is more to the world. His performance was devastating and will haunt me for weeks. I hope he gets a Tony nod for it because he absolutely deserves to.
Be forewarned, this play is NOT for children. I would say anyone under 16 would have trouble with much of the content (though, of course, it depends on the child). I am pretty sure everyone in the theater was crying by the end, and the three actors looked absolutely emotionally spent during curtain call. Even though I wasn’t on stage, I felt like I knew how they were feeling. If you want to see a show that is a powerful, emotional journey that will leave an impression on you, Orphans is a fantastic choice.
Have questions or looking to plan a trip to NYC to see Orphans? Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!