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NY1 Theater Review: "The Old Friends"

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Off Broadway's Signature Theatre has just debuted "The Old Friends," a never before seen work from the late Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Horton Foote. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

In Horton Foote’s wonderful play, “The Old Friends,” debuting at the Signature Theatre, the gloves come off.

The late Texas playwright, known for his understated dramas, gets down and dirty with this crop of characters, and suddenly the genteel Mr. Foote is sounding like Tennessee Williams, as if he’d collaborated on "August Osage County."

It’s an intricately plotted story, involving bickering family friends in Harrison, Texas circa 1965.

The kindly Mamie Borden, played to perfection by Lois Smith, is miserable living with her sour man-crazy daughter Julia and son-in-law Albert.

They’re rich and spoiled, and as played by Veanne Cox and Adam LeFevre, they seem to have stepped right out of "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof."

Their boozing, widowed friend Gertrude is a kindred spirit, and this is a tour de force for Betty Buckley, combining venom and spice.

Desperately in love with her brother-in-law Howard, she’s magnificently monstrous and pitifully pathetic. Cotter Smith’s Howard is a decent guy stuck managing Gertrude’s vast estate. His romantic interests lie elsewhere with Mamie's upright daughter-in-law Sybil.

Smith and Hallie Foote have perhaps the more difficult job of playing straight arrows, but they are every bit as entertaining.

There’s little grey area among the characters, and it’s fun to be able to root for some and boo others. But the first rate cast under Michael Wilson’s bravura direction flesh out their roles so colorfully that we’re able to relish the shades within the black and white.

Like Tennessee Williams, Foote captures a southern rhythm in this play that’s both abrupt and lyrical. And like Tracy Letts’ August Osage County, we are immersed in a twilight zone of family dysfunction. Repellant, yet impossible to look away.

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