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Paulanne Simmons


"The Breadwinner" Is Food for Thought

The Breadwinner -- Joe Delafield, Alicia Roper, Virginia Kull, Robert Emmet Lunney, Jack Gilpin. Photo by Theresa Squire

"The Breadwinner"
Directed by Carl Forsman
Presented by Keen Company at The Connelly Theater
220 East 4th St. (between avenues A & B)
Tues. thru Sat 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m.
Opened Sept. 6, closes Oct. 2
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Sept. 13, 2005

At a time when so many are convinced our world has been radically altered so that it barely resembles that of our ancestors, it's refreshing to find out once again that nothing has really changed at all.

W. Somerset Maugham's "The Breadwinner," set in the United Kingdom not long after World War I, is about a subject close to the modern heart -- midlife crisis. It was a hit in London in 1931, and it should be a hit at The Connelly Theater, where it is meticulously staged by the very capable Keen Company, under the direction of Carl Forsman.

Broadway and off-Broadway veteran Jack Gilpin stars as Charles, the pater familias who is regarded by one and all as boring and humorless until one day he surprises his spoiled and selfish children, Patrick (Joe Delafield) and Judy (Virginia Kull) and his shallow wife, Margery (Alice Roper) by asserting his own needs.

Despite the weightiness of its theme, The Breadwinner, for the most part, wavers between comedy and all-out farce. But the firmly rooted actors never let their characters lose the guiding thread of believability.

Robert Emmet Lunney as Alfred, Charles's charismatic and cunning lawyer, and Jennifer Van Dyck as Alfred's silly wife, Dorothy, are particularly effective at both advancing the drama and keeping up the humor.

Nathan Heverin has lovingly re-created the post-Victorian parlor in which all the action takes place. Indeed, this comedy about wealthy people, with their witty banter and biting comments ("After nineteen years of marriage, I'm used to loneliness," says Charles) could easily have been penned by Maugham's contemporary Noel Coward.

Perhaps some day Mr. Forsman and his company will try their hand at interpreting one of Coward's classic comedies?


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