Lawrence Harbison, The Playfixer, brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York. In this column, Larry reports on GOLDEN BOY, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, THE OTHER PLACE, THE GREAT GOD PAN, GOLDEN AGE, MY NAME IS ASHER LEV, TAR BABY and WATER BY THE SPOONFUL.

Clifford Odets is having quite a year. Currently on the boards is an exemplary production of Golden Boy, and later this season we’ll have The Big Knife. Golden Boy, at the Belasco Theatre, is a Famous Play you may have read but have never seen. This is not surprising, as it has a large cast and multiple sets. Only an organization with the resources of Lincoln Center Theatre could have managed it, and kudos to them for doing do.

Set during the Depression, the play’s about a young Italian American man named Joe Bonaparte who dreams of success as a prizefighter, much to the dismay of his father, who knows his son is a gifted violinist and wants him to pursue that. Slowly but surely, Joe works his way up the ladder, knowing full well that the damage he is incurring to his hands will mean he’ll never play the violin again. Along the way, he falls in love with the girlfriend of his hard-boiled manager.

Bartlett Sher’s production is, in a word, magnificent. Look for this to be nominated for many awards come spring. His cast is astounding. At the top of the Astounding List is Seth Numrich as Joe, a Star is Born performance. Also outstanding are Tony Shalhoub as Joe’s father, Danny Mastrogiorgio as his manager and Yvonne Strahovski as Lorna, the girl who falls for Joe.

Don’t miss this wonderful production.

Daniel Sullivan’s production of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. At the Schoefeld Theatre, has been much maligned. It doesn’t deserve it. This is a fine production of a great American play, featuring an ensemble cast of superb actors, led by Bobby Cannavale as Ricky Roma and Al Pacino as Shelly Levine. Pacino has been slammed for his performance. He doesn’t deserve it.

Another don’t-miss.

And speaking of don’t-miss, don’t miss Sharr White’s The Other Place, which Manhattan Theatre Club has put into their Broadway venue, the Friedman Theatre, it having first run two seasons ago at the Lucille Lortel. Laurie Metcalfe again stars as a brilliant scientist who has developed a drug to prevent the onset of dementia – ironic, as she herself has the disease. Metcalfe is brilliant. The Broadway cast is new, excerpt for her. Daniel Stern now plays the husband, and he is a marked improvement over his predecessor. And Metcalfe’s daughter, Zoe Perry, shines in several different roles.

Even if you saw the play Off Broadway, see it again. It’s been magnified from a good play into a Great Play.

Amy Herzog’s The Great God Pan, at Playwrights Horizons, is not as strong as After the Revolution and 4000 Years, which established her as one of the most exciting new playwriting voices of her generation, but there’s enough here to make it worth seeing. It’s about a man who’s contacted by a childhood friend whom he hasn’t seen in years. The friend has a demon — his father sexually molested him when he was a young boy – and he wants to know is his dad did the same thing to Our Hero. Great scene after great scene don’t, alas, add up to much that’s compelling; but the cast is good.

Terrence McNally’s Golden Age, which has alas closed at Manhattan Theatre Club, was a fascinating play about the opera composer Bellini, taking place backstage during the opening night performance of his I Puritani. Bellini spends the whole performance in the green room, interacting with the performers as they enter and exit. Walter Bobbie’s production was mighty fine, featuring several fine performances, most notably by Lee Pace as Bellini and Reg Rogers as his patron/lover.

I’m glad I saw it. I’m sorry if you didn’t.

Also good is Aaron Posner’s My Name is Asher Lev, at the Westside Theatre, a dramatization of Chaim Potok’s novel about a young Orthodox Jewish man with dreams of becoming a famous painter, much to the consternation of his parents – particularly, his father. Ari Brand is wonderful as Asher – but the real standout performances come from Mark Nelson – who plays several roles including Asher’s father – and Jenny Bacon, who plays the mother.

My Name is Asher Lev is funny, and poignant, and absolutely entrancing.

I also liked Tar Baby at the DR2 Theatre, written by (with Dan Kitrosser) and staring Desiree Burch, a solo show about racism, done in the style of a carny show, which culminates in an incredible angry rant of Black Rage which knocked me out. Unfortunately, after this Burch has about 15 minutes of “just-kidding” material, which undercuts what we’ve just heard, no doubt in an attempt to make the play more palatable to white audiences. She should have ended with the rant.

Still, this is very worth seeing – even if you are not a Person of Color.

Finally, Quira Alegría Hudes’ 2012 Pulitzer Prize-winner, Water by the Spoonful, has arrived in New York, at Second Stage. It’s an odd, two for the price of one, play. Half of it is about a young vet who works in a Subway and his cousin. The other half takes place in an internet chat room for crack addicts. Neither half melds very well.

If this play had not won the Pulitzer, it would be just another here today, gone tomorrow Off Broadway play, interesting and well produced but ultimately forgettable. But because of the award, you sit there watching it thinking, “This won the Pulitzer???” It’s particularly grating when you know that it beat out Jon Robin Baitz’ brilliant Other Desert Cities. What could the Pulitzer jury have been thinking?

GOLDEN BOY. Belasco Theatre, 111 w. 44TH St.
TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. Schoefeld Theatre, 236 W. 45th St.
TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200
THE OTHER PLACE. Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 W. 47th St.
TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200
THE GREAT GOD PAN. Playwrights Horizons, 416 W. 42nd St.
TICKETS: www.ticketcentral.com or 212-279-4200
GOLDEN AGE. Manhattan Theatre Club. Alas, closed
MY NAME IS ASHER LEV Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43rd St.
TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200
TAR BABY. DR2 Theatre, 103 E. 15th St.
TICKETS: www.telecharge.com or 212-239-6200
WATER BY THE SPOONFUL. Second Stage, 305 W. 43rd St.
TICKETS, 212-246-4422

For discount tickets for groups of ten or more, contact Carol Ostrow Productions & Group Sales. Phone: 212-265-8500. E-Mail: ostrow1776@aol.com.

“It requires a certain largeness of spirit to give generous appreciation to large achievements. A society with a crabbed spirit and a cynical urge to discount and devalue will find that one day, when it needs to draw upon the reservoirs of excellence, the reservoirs have run dry.”

— George F. Will

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who actually does strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

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