Although the dialogue, juxtaposition of scenes, emotional rhythms and placement of plot and character revelations are most impressive, I did find the early going to be a bit leisurely, and think that a tightened opening scene and the elimination of the intermission would make The Legacy even stronger than it is now.
The Legacy begins in the Connecticut home of Martin Rothberg and his partner Nathan Beckinsdale. The septuagenarian Beckinsdale is devoted to caring for the gruff and grumpy octogenarian Rothberg whose health is failing. When they had met and fell in love forty years earlier, Martin was married and he and his wife had a young son and daughter. Significantly, Martin was a painter at the time, although in short order he would give up on his painting career, and become an illustrator-author of a highly successful series of children's books.
Enter a surprise visitor, Martin's son Jacob. Now married with children of his own, Jacob has never forgiven his father for having "abandoned" him and his family to partner with Nathan. He has neither visited nor seen his father in four years. So when Jacob claims that he was in New York and decided to surprise his father for his 84th birthday, Martin knows that he is lying.
Jacob's actual purpose is to obtain his father's forty-year-old painting of Nathan for an exhibit ("Objects of Affection: Undiscovered Treasures of the Twentieth Century") at the Chicago museum where he is employed. As it turns out, Jacob, whose job status will benefit by his providing the painting, has told his colleagues that he already has the painting.
The next scene (act two, scene one) takes us back forty years to Martin's artist's studio to the fateful day when Martin painted the portrait of Nathan. it is followed by a flash forward to the play's final scene, which portrays a painfully powerful and moving confrontation between the gentle by nature Nathan and Jacob.
Thom Molyneaux expertly engages our sympathy without diluting the mean orneriness of the failing Martin. Our sympathy is buttressed by revelations that author Siegel has in store for us during the flashback scene. Michael Horowitz plays Nathan with a naturalistic ease which makes it appear that he isn't even acting at all. However, that silly notion is put to rest during his confrontation with Jacob for which he has allowed himself the space not to have to resort to histrionics. Brendan Ryan brings conviction to his portrayal of Jacob's pain and righteousness.
Director Michael Bias has directed with a deft and gentle hand, minimizing the sense of his presence in order to focus the spotlight completely on the words and their interpreters. Robert Perkel's large and detailed set provides a cozy Connecticut setting and is eminently playable.
This Garage Theatre Group production marks playwright Adam Siegel's professional stage premiere. The journey which Siegel and The Legacy have taken to get here may help to explain the maturity and craftsmanship of this debut. Siegel has had innumerable readings of his plays at a considerable number of theatres and festivals around the country, ranging from the Long Beach Playhouse in California to Gayfest NYC, and The Legacy was the winner of the New Play Festival at South Carolina's Centre Stage, a finalist at the New Jersey Playwrights contest at William Paterson University and a semi finalist at the O'Neill Playwrights Conference.
The intelligence and insight of Siegel's writing is invaluable. However, it is the superior structure of The Legacy which most satisfies.
The Legacy continues performances through March 9, 2014, (Evenings: Thursday-Saturday 8 pm/ Matinees: Sunday 3 pm) at the Garage Theatre Group at the Becton Theatre on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University, 960 River Road, Teaneck, NJ. Box Office: P.O. Box 252, Tenafly, NJ 07670; 201-569-7710. online: www.GarageTheatre.org.
The Legacy by Adam Siegel; directed by Michael Bias