"Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander is well known to New Yorkers as a theatre star, and his new show opened off-Broadway on Tuesday night in Midtown. Roma Torre's has the following review of "The Portuguese Kid."
It has been 30 years since John Patrick Shanley dazzled us with his offbeat romantic comedy "Moonstruck." It was his first venture into film and it turned out to be quite a hit. In the intervening years, he turned serious, most notably with his Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning drama "Doubt."
But now with "The Portuguese Kid" at the Manhattan Theatre Club, he returns to his quirky comedy roots. Thanks to a first-class production, this one's quite a hoot.
At curtain up, we see Jason Alexander and Sherie Rene Scott. He's a lawyer, and she's a distraught client dressed in widow's weeds. Her husband, a mutual friend, has just died and she's seeking help with the estate. Oh, did I not say this is a comedy?
Alexander is Barry Dragonetti, a rather flinty pragmatist and perfect foil for Scott's Atalanta Lagana. There's an outsize quality to the character: she's a volatile drama queen with, as she puts it, a darkness in her.
Add to the mix Barry's battle-axe of a mother, played to perfection by Mary Testa, and together their chemistry on stage is irresistibly combustible, making for one of the most hysterical opening scenes ever to grace a New York stage.
Unfortunately, Shanley is not able to sustain the hilarity of that first scene. We meet Atalanta's much younger lover, who also happens to be the ex-boyfriend of Barry's much younger wife. Shanley directs the play as if a grand farce, though the material adds up to a silly soap opera.
Alexander's dry humor, honed over many brilliant episodes of "Seinfeld," is on full display in the show, and Sherie Rene Scott never ceases to amaze. She's a shining presence on stage, exhibiting comedic timing that is utterly priceless.
Bottom line on "The Portuguese Kid"? Not the best of Shanley's plays, but it is perhaps the funniest. You will laugh — of that I have no doubt!