Sunday, December 09, 2012
Odets’ son, Walt Odets provides the perfect introduction to the play in an essay he wrote entitled “With Music I’m Never Alone When I’m Alone”: “In Golden Boy, my father, Clifford Odets, gave Joe Bonaparte two possibilities. Joe could remain a violinist or he could follow the lure of money and public adoration to become a prizefighter. He could have an authentic, fulfilled life or an empty one. It is important that the authentic path offered is a life in music.”
Seth Numrich does a wonderful job capturing the inner-turmoil of an angry young man, desperate to make a name and a place for himself in the world. Bonaparte is a concert-level violinist but there is probably no opportunity for him to use this talent to break out of the Italian-American ghetto where he lives or to prove himself to his father. As such, Bonaparte, “the cockeyed wonder”, aggressively sells himself to down-and-out boxing manager Tom Moody. Once Moody gives Bonaparte his chance in the boxing ring, Bonaparte slowly moves to the ‘dark side’ in a familiar morality story. While Joe seems to be an adequate boxer, his key asset is that his opponents aren’t able to stand against his anger and rage, which manifest themselves with a mighty punch. Bonaparte continues to move down this path of no return and finally breaks after killing a man in the ring. This is Joe’s breaking point for he now sees what he has become and that the option of going back to his music is closed off to him.
Tony Shalhoub is brilliant in his role as Joe’s father – an uncompromising voice of right and wrong and the audience can feel his pain when Joe will not accept a violin that Mr. Bonaparte had scrimped and saved for. Given Mr. Bonaparte’s rigid morality, it is little wonder that he refuses to give his blessing to Joe to pursue a career as a boxer. The other standout role is Lorna Moon (played by Yvonne Strahovski), a self-professed “dame from Newark” who is also caught in her own moral dilemma – mistress to Joe’s manager who saved her from the streets so she feels a sense of obligation to him and her love for Joe.
Golden Boy is playing at Lincoln Center Theater at the Belasco (111 West 44th Street) and runs until Jan. 20th. Tickets are available through Telecharge and range from $37 - $122.