Jeff Baron’s "Visiting Mr. Green" is the latest offering of the Jewish Theatre of Bloomington. The production, directed by Justin Anderson, is an overall delightful concoction with lots of laughs in the first act and the laughter mixed with some more thoughtful moments in the second.
Richard Burke, a veteran actor and emeritus professor at IU, played Mr. Green with an affectionate, gruff internal energy. The skull capped Green is an orthodox Jew in his eighties. He lives alone. His health is a little precarious. His memory, at least for recent events, is sketchy. Mr. Green is a proud man and a bit stuck in his life.
Gabe Gloden, also an experienced actor and the managing director of the Bloomington Playwrights Project, played his visitor, Ross Gardiner. Ross is a young business executive. He’s been convicted of a reckless driving accident when his car almost hit Mr. Green. As punishment, the judge has called for reconciliation. He’s ordered Ross to visit Green every Thursday for six months to help out the older man. At first Ross seems to the freer of the two men, but he has his own hidden shackles.
The results of Mr. Green’s stiff Judaism and of Ross’s drive to succeed the confines of the corporate world have saddled them both with histories that define and strangle their humanity. It’s through their visit that both the old man and the young man break free to grow.
The production of "Visiting Mr. Green" is a staged reading with the actors sitting at a table with just a few props. At first, I wondered about this, but as the play developed I found myself thinking that this format suited the story wonderfully and that staging would have actually gotten in the way. The director and his actors have put together a very entertaining piece of theatrical chamber music.
The Jewish Theatre of Bloomington’s production of Jeff Baron’s "Visiting Mr. Green" has its final performance Sunday afternoon at four in the Rose Firebay of the John Waldron Arts Center.
You can find an interview with founding member Audrey Heller and actor Richard Burke on our Arts Interviews page .