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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Visiting Mr. Green at Playhouse West

Also see Richard's review of To Kill a Mockingbird


One of our better-known regional companies opened on Friday with Jeff Baron's moving drama Visiting Mr. Green. It stars Dean Goodman, one of the best actors in the San Francisco Bay Area, who is reprising the role that he performed at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in 2000 while celebrating his 63rd year on the stage. It also features a new young talented actor, Zach Hummell, who should get some great roles in the future. He is someone to watch.

The drama takes place in the run down apartment of Mr. Green in New York. He is a widower and has lived a lonely life since the death of his beloved wife. A 29 year old single businessman, who was recklessly driving, nearly hits Mr. Green as he crossed the street in a crosswalk. The judge sentences the young man to community service and requires him to assist Mr. Green once a week for six months. He has to clean the apartment, run errands and make sure the 80 year-old man is all right. The men can barely stand each other at the start of the play. Both have entirely different life styles. The comedy then turns into a moving drama about their growing friendship and mutual understanding and compassion. Mr. Baron's play is as thought-provoking as it entertaining. It's a moving drama about friendship, absolution and our need to be open minded toward other people.

Dean Goodman gives a superb performance. His acting is spectacularly believable from the confusion of senility to physical degeneration of old age as he holds onto a piece of furniture for reassurance as he crosses the room. He conveys volumes with a jerk of his shoulder, a raise of the eyebrow and Jewish speech inflection. His is an incredible performance by a consummate actor. He captures the heartbreak of a lonely old man who is trapped by his choices in life.

Zach Hummell gives a completely believable performance and his chemistry with Dean is amazing. Each plays off of the other to perfection. His role as the 29 year old American Express business man is rich and sleek. Not only is he talented, but he has movie star looks and a great presence on stage.

Credit must be given to director Lois Grandi, who allows these two fine actors to have their way with this material and yet keeps the dialogue from becoming preachy. They never become academic as the actors put across their message.

The set by Don Ham is excellent. In such a short space within this 44 seat theater he is able to convey an acceptable recreation of a dingy New York apartment. I also like the interludes between scenes while we listen to piano music by Eric Satee. It is in line with the mood of the play.

Visiting Mr. Green plays through March 3 at Playhouse West, 1345 Locust Street, Walnut Creek, Ca. Ticket prices are $17 to $21 and tickets can be obtained by calling (925)942-0300. Shows are at 8 PM on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays. Performances on Sundays are at 2 PM and 7 PM.

The company's next production will be the Steven Dietz's comedy Private Eyes. It will run from April 5 through May 5.


Cheers - and be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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