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Paulanne Simmons

There’s New Blood in a Tender Theme


"Indian Blood" by A.R. Gurney. Charles Socarides (top) and Jeremy Blackman. Photo credit: James Leynse.

“Indian Blood”
Directed by Mark Lamos
Primary Stages
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59th St.
Opened Aug. 9, 2006
Tues. 7 p.m., Wed. thru Sat. 8 p.m., Sat. matinee 2 p.m.
Additional matinees Aug. 23 & 30
$47.50 (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com
Closes Sept. 2, 2006
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Aug. 16, 2006

In “The Dining Room,” A.R. Gurney used an old dining room table as the meeting place where generational conflict and counsel are transmitted. In Gurney’s new play, “Indian Blood,” directed by Mark Lamos at Primary Stages, he uses a Christmas Eve celebration as the setting where animosities are aired and peace is sometimes made.

Young Eddie (the outstanding Charles Socarides) is both the protagonist and, in open homage to Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” the narrator. Like a good Stage Manager, Eddie sets the scene and fills in the missing pieces. This includes pointing out those people who, for the sake of economy, he says, are not personified by an onstage actor. Socarides excels in both roles.

The time is the mid-1940s, shortly after the end of World War II. The place is Buffalo, New York, Gurney’s native city. The United States is at peace at last, but menacing signs of modernity are already perceived by Eddie’s rascally Grandfather (Broadway and off-Broadway veteran John McMartin), who notes that there are entire groups of people Buffalo’s upper class (of which he is a member) knows nothing about.

Eddie, the family rebel, is feuding with his (second) cousin Lambert (Jeremy Blackman) , an apple-polishing nerd one yearns to kick in the ass. Eddie claims he cannot get along with his cousin because he has “Indian Blood,” which makes him hot-headed and defiant. More specifically, his grandfather has told him he is a descendant of the Senecas, and Lambert is a scion of the sneaky Tuscaroras.

At the height of Lambert and Eddie’s feud, when Lambert gets Eddie into trouble for sketching a lewd cartoon, the two boys are invited for the first time to spend Christmas Eve with the adults at the home of their pampered, demanding and daffy Grandma Gog (the excellent Pamela Payton-Wright). There, all the family’s fault lines break apart and come together again: the fragile marriage of Eddie’s parents, the embattled June (the delightful Rebecca Luker) and the mamma’s boy Harvey (Jack Gilpin, seen most notably last September, also as a father, in Keen Company’s “The Breadwinner”); Grandfather’s bemused tolerance of his wife’s whims; Harvey’s subservience to his dominating mother.

“Indian Blood” is a quiet play, written with overwhelming tenderness. It is superbly acted and masterfully directed. Most of all, it gets to the heart of human existence, our relationships with those we love, and in a very endearing way, touches our own hearts.



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