Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Man for All Seasons (American Airlines)

BOTTOM LINE: A solid production of a great play about one man who sticks to his principals when his life is in dire straights. It should resonate well with modern audiences.

The Roundabout Theatre Company's production of Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons tells the timely tale of Sir Thomas More (Frank Langella, recent Tony winner for his spot-on portrayal of Richard Nixon in Frost Nixon) who is the sole opposition to Henry VIII's creation of The Church of England which would formally annul his marriage so that he can take another wife and create a male heir to assume his throne. More loses everything in his life in order to protect his integrity. The people around him compromise their moral character in order to gain acceptance from the king, by agreeing to the creation of essentially a new religion, and advance up the social ladder and gain praise and riches. Langella creates an extremely complex character that will stop at nothing to do what he believes is right. The rest is actually history. While this piece could easily feel like a lame history lesson, it's fresh and moving.

If you don't know about the history behind the formation of The Church of England, you may be a little lost. All you really need to know is this: Henry VIII wants to divorce his current wife because she cannot produce a male heir. The Catholic Church doesn't allow divorces. So he decided to create a new church, The Church of England, which will allow him to annul his marriage, take a new wife, and hopefully produce a male heir. Most everyone sides with Henry in this mildly ridiculous scheme, with the exception of one morally steadfast man, Sir Thomas More. His opposition to this new doctrine is the catalyst for the events in A Man for All Seasons which details the events that led to More's untimely end.

Director Doug Hughes (Tony winner for his work on the Pulitzer Prize winning Doubt) creates a seamless production that is extremely engaging and entertaining. The two and half hours fly by and every performance is of the highest caliber. With a cast of fifteen actors, it would have been easy for there to have a been a dud or two in the bunch, but every single character is completely flushed out and full of life. Patrick Page sheds his green fur of the title role in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas for the Kingly duds of Henry VIII. Page is absolutely amazing. He is extravagantly funny one moment and then cooly terrifying the next. Even though he is only in one scene, his presence is felt throughout the piece and his performance is a true standout in a show of grade-A performances. I know it's early in the season, but I think his work is worthy of featured actor Tony attention. Speaking of Tonys, Langella's performance in the title role is a tour de force that will also probably gain him yet another well-deserved nomination.

I cannot mention every performance in the cast of stage and screen regulars. Needless to say, I don't think you will be disappointed. If you like smart, historical drama that raises questions that are socially relevant in the political climate of today, you will flip over A Man for All Seasons. To be honest, I thought that I was going to be bored, but I was pleasantly surprised. This production breathes a fresh life into an older piece that easily could have come across as tired; instead is riveting and lively. It's a night at the theatre that any theatre lover will relish. Don't go if you're wanting a light night out, but if you're wanting to be challenged and see some great performances, don't miss this limited engagement.

(A Man For All Seasons plays at The American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd Street. Performance are Tuesday - Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. For tickets call (212) 719-1300. Ticket prices are: $66.50 - $111.50. Visit for more information.)

Above photo is Frank Langella.


ZebraTickets said...

If the box office is sold out, Zebratickets might have tickets available for A Man for All Seasons -

fr jim said...

do you know, by chance about the box seats at this theatre, i have a chance to bring a few priest friends in for the show in dec.....


Molly Marinik said...

check out the American Airlines Theatre seating chart here:

there are some boxes, but before you buy tickets make sure the view isn't obstructed.

fr jim said...

thanks, i did, we're sitting on the far edge seats and it says: partial obstruction, if i remember, it is only a portion of the edge of the stage......