Al Pacino is back on Broadway, this time in David Mamet's latest play, "China Doll." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
David Mamet and Al Pacino: two names that were sure to guarantee an adrenaline rush at the theatre. That would not be the case with their latest collaboration, and the fault lies mostly with the playwright. And while Pacino is doing his thing – which is to say, delivering a wildly entertaining performance – "China Doll" is less a fully realized drama than an elongated rant.
Oh, he's performing alright. The eyes may be drooping, the posture stooped and there's a noticeable paunch in the 75-year-old actor, but for all the early knocks on Pacino in the role, he seems to be firmly at home on that big stage. As a ruthlessly powerful and wealthy businessman, Pacino is putting his indelible stamp on the part wheeling and dealing with relish.
After hearing about all the problems with this production - mostly that Pacino was having difficulty with the lines - I can certainly understand why. Practically a monologue over two hours featuring Pacino mostly conversing on the phone, the script is a rambling mess.
It's both overwritten and underwritten. Repetitiously wordy, yet lacking in coherence. 20 minutes in, we're scratching our heads wondering what the heck is he talking about. Pacino spouts on and on about a plane in Toronto, a tail number, taxes, a missing woman; and yet the only other person we see is his put-upon assistant gamely played by Christopher Denham.
If "China Doll" fails as a play, it does make for a fairly interesting character study. And watching Pacino bluster through it is almost worth the trip.
More pluses: besides Pacino's raucous performance, the set is quite nice, and Mamet, who specializes in scoundrels, offers some insightful nuggets with lines like "Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die." I'm just not sure it's worth going to the theatre to hear it.