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Man and Boy

Frank Langella gives an astonishing performance as a corrupt financier in the Roundabout's fine production of Terrence Rattigan's highly effective 1963 melodrama.

Adam Driver, Frank Langella, Michael Siberry,
and Zach Grenier in Man and Boy
(© Joan Marcus)
When Terence Rattigan's extremely well-crafted, highly effective 1963 melodrama Man and Boy, currently getting a seriously droll revival at the Roundabout Theatre Company starring the astonishing Frank Langella as the corrupt international financial mogul Gregor Antonescu, was first introduced, the play racked up relatively few performances in either London or New York.

Today, the work not only looks refreshed in Maria Aitken's production, it could barely be more relevant in a world of financial corruption where Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff and his family have become emblems of wrongdoing

As the play begins, we meet angry young English expatriate Basil Anthony (Adam Driver) -- whom we soon learn is Gregor's son, Vassily. Shocked at age 18 -- five years earlier -- to have learned the extent of his father's criminal manipulations, he fled the UK to make a new life as a songwriter and piano player in Greenwich Village, where he lives with actress Carol Penn (Virginia Kull) and is having a bit of a challenge keeping their relationship on an even keel.

Vassily soon gets a series of surprise visitors to his messy ground-floor apartment (designed by Derek McLane) starting with Gregor's loyal associate Sven Johnson (Michael Siberry), and followed thereafter by the elder Antonescu, who is fleeing the press in the wake of impending financial doom.

While Gregor is partly present to repair the father-son rift, he actually has something far more devious in mind. He hopes to resuscitate a crumbling, much-needed merger with a major American company run by closeted homosexual businessman Mark Herries (Zach Grenier) by allowing it to seem as if Vassily is not his son, but a homosexual lover ripe for Herries' blandishments. The tactic works, but not soon enough for Gregor to avoid personal and professional disaster.

Indeed, the heart of Rattigan's somewhat complex psychological thriller is the bond between Vassily and Gregor. At that long-ago party, Vassily even aimed a gun at Gregor, but fires and (intentionally?) misses. And while it appears Gregor truly wants the boy he loves to despise him for his misdeeds, Vassily -- who's love-hate feelings for his father continue unabated (and not completely convincingly) -- can't completely comply.

Under Aitken's gorgeously manipulative direction, the entire cast -- including Francesca Faridany as Florence, Antonescu's former secretary and now wife, and Brian Hutchison as Herries' often overwrought accountant -- plays Rattigan's histrionics full out.

But it's Langella for whom the piece is a vehicle, and he drives it like a Rolls Royce. As a man so slick that anyone rubbing up against him runs the risk of sliding to a quick death, Langella puts his extraordinary technique to thorough use. From the way he comports himself right down to caressing a telephone cord to his every statement in an unfailing European accent as he struts in his double-breasted suit, the actor gives yet another impeccable portrayal. Indeed, in every detail, he's The Man.