April 20 (Bloomberg) -- Alec Baldwin’s name on the marquee of a Broadway or off-Broadway theater once gave the assurance of a performance bristling with virility and charisma.
A time, if the current revival of “Orphans” is any measure, now past.
Slim and affable, Baldwin is bland to the point of timidity as Harold, a gangster who smooth-talks two brothers into serving as his henchmen in Lyle Kessler’s 1983 play.
Harold spends much of the first scene bound to a chair, with duct tape across his mouth, in a crummy North Philadelphia apartment nicely realized by John Lee Beatty.
He’s been brought there by Treat (Ben Foster, capably replacing Shia LaBoeuf), a petty thief who cares for his fleet-footed, dim-witted brother Phillip (an ethereal Tom Sturridge, flitting about the set as if auditioning for “Spider-Man”).
Harold deftly turns the tables on his captors, which isn’t exactly suspense-inducing. Baldwin has lost none of the glinty-eyed, suave self-confidence that served him well in memorable dramas like “Entertaining Mr. Sloane” and “Prelude to a Kiss.”
But years of playing a comic version of himself in TV’s “30 Rock” seems to have leeched the undercurrent of fear and malice that surged through this actor like an electric charge.
Without a menacing atmosphere, “Orphans” -- with its hermetically sealed environment and elliptical story-telling -- now plays like cut-rate Pinter.
Director Daniel Sullivan had a similar problem earlier this season directing Al Pacino in a revival of another iconic 1980s show, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” In both cases, his meandering stars exposed the flaws in works that once seemed unimpeachable. (Jeremy Gerard)
At the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St. Information: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com. Rating: **
‘Jekyll & Hyde’
Having moved myself to the back of the theater, Frank Wildhorn’s appallingly amplified, bombastic and treacly “Jekyll & Hyde” left no lasting damage.
Loosely based on the Robert Louis Stevenson 1886 novella, the musical with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse ran for four years on Broadway beginning in 1997.
Seeing Dad suspended in an asylum inspires Jekyll (Constantine Maroulis from “Rock of Ages”) to devise a potion that separates good and evil in an attempt to comprehend insanity.
“It is the curse of mankind,” the portentous narrator says, “that these polar twins should be constantly struggling.”
Jekyll’s hair is slicked back. With hair loose, no glasses and the occasional David Lee Roth singing inflection, he becomes Hyde.
Hyde’s first order of business is to significantly pare down the board of governors of Saint Jude’s Hospital, which at the outset rejects Jekyll’s request for a research grant.
A trouper, Maroulis sings more than a dozen songs. He and the rest of the cast, as directed and choreographed by Jeff Calhoun (“Newsies”), have survived 25 weeks on tour.
With two of the show’s catchier numbers (“Someone Like You” and “A New Life”) Deborah Cox is a lovely, nuanced singer. She rises above her part as a prostitute who loves Jekyll and enjoys being tied up by Hyde. (Philip Boroff)
At the Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway. Information: +1-877-250-2929, or http://www.jekyllandhydemusical.com. Rating: **
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic and Philip Boroff is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
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