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Time Out Theater Review: "Orphans"

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Alec Baldwin returns to Broadway in a new production of the 1983 play "Orphans." David Cote of Time Out New York filed the following review for NY1.

Playwright Lyle Kessler would be a one-hit wonder if his one hit, "Orphans", were truly wonderful. Alas this derivative 1983 work - part Shepard, part Pinter - lacks poetry, menace or mystery. At most, "Orphans" is a visceral workout for three fearless actors. Alec Baldwin headlines a Broadway premiere that is too timid and tidy to raise the pulse or bulk up the material's thinness.

Phillip and Treat, played by the athletic and intense Tom Sturridge and Ben Foster, are two young men squatting in a run-down Philadelphia row house. Treat mugs strangers for cash. Phillip stays in, watching the world through the window and living on tuna fish.

When Treat brings home the drunken Harold, played by Alec Baldwin, intending to roll the supposed businessman, our hermit brothers find their world turned upside down. Soon, Harold becomes a mysterious surrogate dad.

"Orphans" is essentially a fable about fathers and sons, with key bits of information withheld, supposedly to enhance the drama. Is Harold a gangster? What happened to the boys' parents? Do we care?

Director Daniel Sullivan, who fares better with better plays, fails to evoke either danger or claustrophobia, and while the younger actors work hard, Baldwin seems adrift and opts for a distractingly stilted vocal delivery.

As you may know, the production made news when film star Shia LaBeouf, cast in the role of Treat, was fired during rehearsals due to artistic differences. The producers probably made the right call, but still, one wonders what could have been: LaBeouf, at least, might have been awful in an interesting way.

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