This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



ORPHANS (photo by Joan Marcus)

Phillip (Tom Sturridge), Treat (Ben Foster), and Harold (Alec Baldwin) form a rather unique pseudo-family in ORPHANS (photo by Joan Marcus)

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
236 West 45th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through May 19, $67-$132

When petty thief Treat (Ben Foster) lures home businessman Harold (Alec Baldwin), he gets more than he bargained for in the energetic Broadway debut of Lyle Kessler’s 1983 play, Orphans. Treat has turned to a life of crime in order to take care of himself and his developmentally disabled younger brother, Phillip (Tom Sturridge), in their run-down house in North Philadelphia. Treat, who takes pleasure in wielding a knife, ties the passed-out Harold to a chair and tells Phillip to watch him while the older brother goes out to try to collect a ransom for his kidnap victim. Phillip, who has a thing for mayonnaise, canned tuna, and a woman’s red shoe, can’t leave the house because of allergies that could potentially kill him. But inside he’s like a playful caged animal, leaping across John Lee Beatty’s set like a feral cat, from stairs to couch to windowsill and back again. Meanwhile, when he comes to, Phillip is nonplussed at having been captured, speaking eloquently about admiring the Dead End Kids and remembering his difficult childhood as an orphan, just like Treat and Phillip. Soon he’s serving as a surrogate father figure, at first enraging Treat while intriguing Phillip, leading to a surprise shift in the power dynamic. Orphans is a showcase for the trio of actors; the original L.A. production thirty years ago starred Joe Pantoliano, Lane Smith, and Paul Leiber, while the 1985 Steppenwolf version boasted Gary Sinise directing John Mahoney, Terry Kinney, and Kevin Anderson, and Alan J. Pakula’s 1987 film featured Albert Finney, Matthew Modine, and Anderson. For this Great White Way edition, Foster (3:10 to Yuma, The Messenger), in his Broadway debut, is solid as the ultraserious Treat, who will do whatever it takes to protect Phillip, while Baldwin has a field day as Harold, part Leo Gorcey, part Huntz Hall, part Humphrey Bogart as he coolly and calmly handles what should be a life-threatening situation, instead seeing it as an opportunity. But it’s Sturridge (Being Julia, On the Road) who steals the show with his mesmerizing, acrobatic performance as a trapped man-child ready to burst free. Director Daniel Sullivan (Prelude to a Kiss, The Substance of Fire) injects a kind of punk-rock ferocity into the Pinteresque proceedings as he weaves together Treat’s intense rage, Phillip’s sense of wonder, and Harold’s absurdist ramblings on human existence. Orphans is a captivating, if unusual and offbeat, dark comedy that thrills from start to finish.

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  1. I absolutely loved this play. Tom Sturridge was amazing.

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