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The Treasurer

Deanna Dunagan & Peter Friedman†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† photos† by Joan Marcus

 

 

 

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† By Eugene Paul

 

Startlingly† accomplished new playwright Max Posner is having his† long gestated, lovingly autobiographical first major play being hijacked by the brilliant performance of Deanna Dunagan as his captivating grandmother sliding into dementia.That he as well as we lose sight of the fact the play is not about her at all.† Itís about him and his father.† His† happily successful,† happily married, father.† Who is asked by the family to take hold of the wildly careening finances of his mother, Ida Armstrong,† to keep her from going completely off the rails, to keep her from her follies, to keep her secure.† And happy would be a bonus.

 

The Son (amazing, bravura Peter Friedman)† the backbone of the play, comes right out at the start and tells us directly heís pleased (heís not) to act in behalf of the family, his brothers, to oversee Idaís spending, for the sake of the family. Sheís over her ears in debt and deliberately oblivious.† She needs monitoring.† Bah, she needs care.† But really, heís doing this because his son, our author, has asked him for his blessing in writing a play about his fatherís duties in caring for his mother, the authorís grandmother, what he feels, what he thinks, what the author thinks he thinks and feels. The authorís dad, Idaís son, says heís pleased and flattered by this rather unusual effort, which is hardly what a proper son should do, not following in his† footsteps but instead, observing them, weighing them, judging them, recording them. Heís not pleased, not really, and this, what we are seeing, what he is performing in,† is the play his son has written.

 

Which makes every outburst, every fresh anecdote ingeniously compelling because, in spite of this domination by the authorís father, almost all of it is conducted by telephone, by computer, or directly at us by the father.† Idaís world is not only answering his phone calls but shopping and seeing, engaging other people, whether or not she knows them well, beguiling them into listening to her Ė she never sees any of her family until Ė until itís too late. We watch with increasing misgiving as her behavior† changes from charming and beguiling, to automatic fraud charm, automatic importuning beguiling, from graceful carriage to tottering, from† free gestures to fumbling, her face from animation, to a simulacrum of animation, to blankness overlaid with shallow cunning.† It is an extraordinary performance.

 

So, too, is Peter Friedmanís as the Son, increasingly agitated, exasperated, until he is raging, this formerly happy man. All the while, we know this is the Sonís sonís take on his father and his grandmother, and itís fascinating and bewildering, because somewhere, somehow, the author has† carried things too far.† After a shattering visit in a Chinese restaurant† between the Son and his mother, already in deep dementia, just watching them eat is utterly uncomfortable. Director David Cromer, fiercely attuned, harrowingly inventive Ė his flat, hard choice to have stage hands supply sets and set pieces before our eyes in Laura Jellinekís raw, wisely clever setting as the play proceeds is a marvelous directorial decision† --† but then,† Cromer follows, does not lead, the playwrightís going awry when the playwright takes his father to Hell. And too late, the father realizes how deeply he loves his son.† Too late, the playwrightís play has been stolen by Deanna Dunaganís brilliant characterization of his grandmother. Too late to change direction, the play has been derailed.† But itís all solvable.† And in another iteration, itís bound to be.† Too much good here to be lost.

 

 

 

 

Marinda Anderson, wonderful Marinda Anderson, plays a host of other characters, each one distinct, each one lovingly fashioned.

 

And gifted Pun Bandhu, has the pleasure of playing many more characters.† (his hair got in the act, too.) Lucy Mackinnonís projections, ghostly to imperative, weave into the playís marrow and Bradley Kingís lighting design, constantly involving, brings us to an infinitely touching conclusion highlighting Peter Friedman in the fatherís† moment of truth.

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

The Treasurer.† At Playwrightís Horizons, 416 West 42nd Street.† Tickets: $49-$89.212-279-4200. 95 min. Thru Nov. 5.