A. Dickinson, Chris Perfetti and Harriet Harris in "The Low Road."
By Eugene Paul
romping riot for the senses as well as your brain.
furtive, hulking brute (marvelous Kevin Chamberlin) leaves a baby in a basket
on the familiar doorstep of Mrs. Prewitt (even more marvelous Harriet Harris)
whose brothel is a fixture in this thriving town in 1759 Connecticut. There’s a
little note tucked in. It’s signed. G. Washington, Virginia. Which
precipitates cascades of gold coins in her imagination. Clearly, we are
requiring the necessity of a guide. Do we take the high road or the low road?
Davis narrates as economist and "Weatlth of Nations" author Adam
what better guide for us than the Great Scot himself, Adam Smith, both inside
the action of the play and outside our careening chronicle (superbly sardonic
Daniel Davis) who, some years later, needing shelter for the night, finds
himself in Mrs. Prewitt’s friendly establishment, where young Jim –now
Prewitt-- lives, that same babe with the Washington note which gave Mrs.
Prewitt’s heart an extra, calculating flutter. A young man with the true
American avarice in his bones, Jim Prewitt, (brilliant Chris Perfetti) has the
light turned on in his calculating head by reading Smith’s accidentally
purloined notes. Director Michael Greif’s smashing production of deeply angry
playwright Bruce Norris’s swashbuckling assault on everything is well and truly
Iwuji, Chris Perfetti photos by Joan Marcus
with the rich torrent of eighteen actors playing forty-nine roles, crackling
Bruce Norris’s laughing diatribe runs its picaresque course. Young Jim
Prewitt’s innovative calculating skills having put Mrs. Prewitt’s girls’ skills
on a more efficient basis, takes off with the moneys he’s earned them to make
his own way in the world and on his adventure into the high life, he buys
himself a slave (splendid Chukwudi Iwuji), a status item. This proves most
educational: John Blanke, the slave, far more educated than Jim, strips Jim
naked at gun point and takes off with every stitch. Or so he intends but a
masked highwayman chains the two of them together and in turn scoops up all
their belongings. At which point a blind pastor (winning Max Baker) happening
upon them, takes them in his pastoral care. Where Jim discovers that the
highwayman who robbed him is Constance (splendid Susannah Perkins.) the
faithful, loving, dutiful daughter of the kindly if laughable, pastor.
and a day, it goes on like this, a romping riot for the senses as well as your
brain, shootings, corpses, every swiftly, deliciously executed change
integrated into the flow of action and all richly outfitted , wigged to shoon,
costumes and finery – and rags -- by Emily Rebholz, hair and faces by J.Jared
Jamas and Dave Bova, in swiftly sentient settings by David Korins, lit with wit
by Ben Stanton, accompanied by violinist Josh Henderson right through to the
cliff hanger first act curtain. Hmm. No curtain. Blackout? Yes. Young Jim
Prewitt is about to be executed by a firing squad of Hessians. Shades of Barry
Lyndon and Tom Jones.
hah! Act two is 21st century! A panel of incredibly rich experts,
one of whom is a descendant of Jim Prewitt in case you were worried, chaired by
even richer Belinda (again, fantastic Harriet Harris), whose foundation has
underwritten this beneficence to betterment of us and our understanding
through the immediate wonders of the televisioned world. They are trashed by
rebels! And the ensuing chaos is blinding! Until Adam Smith comes to the rescue
and tries to put us back on track, in the 18th century, at the
execution of Jim Prewitt, now being adjudicated.
playwright Norris, still full of rage, -- he wrote this play in heat for the Royal
Court ten years ago -- cannot contain himself. He vents scalding scorn on us,
on his characters, on himself, on the theater as weak, ineffectual slaves to
the injustice and inequality running our lives. He introduces huge, off worldly
creatures resembling giant bees that inspect our world and reject it and us for
what we have done with it and what we have done with ourselves. And you know
he’s right. Bleeding hearts, take note.
his fire for what he feels is not enough of us feeling like rage and doing
something about it, I have to say in addition to those wonderful players
previously mentioned, I deeply admired marvelous Crystal. A Dickenson in all
her guises, Gopal Divan for five characterizations, Tessa Albertson, Richard
Poe, David Quay. Yes, Bruce, you rock, your work means something. Get wilder.
At the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets: $75. 212-967-7555. 2 hrs
35 min thru Apr 1.
beats you over the head but I wouldn’t have missed it.