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Regrets

Ansel Elgort makes an impressive professional acting debut in the Manhattan Theatre Club world premiere production of Matt Charman's play.

By New York City
Adriane Lenox and Ansel Elgort
in Regrets
(© Carol Rosegg)
Adriane Lenox and Ansel Elgort
in Regrets
(© Carol Rosegg)
High school student Ansel Elgort makes an impressive professional acting debut in the Manhattan Theatre Club production of Regrets, a new play by Matt Charman, now at New York City Center Stage I under the finely tuned direction of Carolyn Cantor.

Elgort portrays the central role of 18-year-old Caleb Farley, who has come to a so-called "divorce ranch" in Nevada, where men wait out the time establishing a six-week residency before being able to get a quick divorce. The year is 1954, and the social and political climate of the era informs much of the plot and character interactions.

The ranch is run by Mrs. Duke (Adriane Lenox), an African-American woman who has worked hard to gain respect, but whose position of authority is less secure than she'd like. Caleb's fellow residents include Ben Clancy (Brian Hutchison), a decorated World War II veteran and former schoolteacher; Gerald Driscoll (Lucas Caleb Rooney), another veteran; and Alvin Novotny (Richard Topol), a pet shop owner from Queens.

Each of these men suffer from the regrets of the play's title, resulting from the choices they have made over the course of their lives. They're all also much older than Caleb, and wonder what this young man could possibly have done to be ending his marriage so soon -- particularly to a woman he still professes to love.

Elgort has a striking stage presence along with the ability to simultaneously project both confidence and vulnerability. Lenox seems all hard edges when we first meet Mrs. Duke, but the character's sense of begrudging compassion peeks through on occasion. Hutchison has a way of inserting pauses into his speeches that signify a long-standing sadness. Topol wears his character's misery on his sleeve, while Rooney displays an outward bravado that partially disguises more complex feelings.

The company also includes Alexis Bledel (of Gilmore Girls fame), who brings a wistful sweetness to the role of Chrissie Meyers, a young prostitute with an unhappy home life. Rounding out the cast is Curt Bouril as Robert Hanratty, whose arrival at the end of the first act proves to be a game-changing event, forcing Caleb and the other men to question the value of their loyalties and convictions.

There's a retro feel to Charman's script that goes beyond the year in which it's set, extending into character archetypes, plot construction, and thematic concerns. But the issues the play deals with -- such as love and integrity -- are timeless and explored here in an engaging fashion.


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