Review: Visiting Mr Green

By John Nathan, April 11, 2008

Trafalgar Studios, London SW1

The last time Warren Mitchell was on the West End stage he played Solomon, the 89-year-old furniture dealer in Arthur Miller’s The Price. This time he plays another Jewish New York octogenarian. In Jeff Baron’s gentle two-hander, Mitchell is Mr Green, a lonely widower who waits for death in his grubby — though kosher — apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. Death came pretty close a while back when he was nearly knocked down while crossing the road.

Baron’s play begins with the arrival of young executive Ross (Gideon Turner), the speeding driver who has been sentenced to six months community service for which he has to visit the old man once a week. Over this period, mutual suspicion turns into a predictably tender relationship.

Baron’s play has a couple of reveals but no surprises. Its lesson is hardly new and comes when Ross challenges Green’s homophobia — the point being that the old can learn as much from the young as the young can from the old. Still, Baron writes with wit and his play, best seen as a charming whimsy, is laced with a good dose of New York Jewish humour. The real story of Patrick Garland’s production is Mitchell’s performance.

There are shades of his award-winning Solomon, but much more conspicuous are the effects of the stroke the actor — now 82 — suffered while playing that part. Well supported by Turner (sometimes physically), Mitchell’s Green is a role that can be largely delivered while seated. When he moves across the stage, it is a painfully slow shuffle. And although the booming voice of Alf Garnett is absent, most of the comic timing, and all the charisma remains.

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Last updated: 11:00am, May 20 2008