Review: ‘The Portuguese Kid’ at the Manhattan Theatre Club

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Jason Alexander was a Broadway baby long before he achieved fame on Seinfeld, but he’s had trouble re-establishing himself even though he’d appeared in Merrily We Roll Along, The Rink, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, and others. He’d also co-starred with Martin Short in the West Coast production of The Producers. At last, he’s found a role of his own in which he proves to be a useful and resourceful stage character actor.

Jason Alexander. Photo by Richard Termine.

John Patrick Shanley’s The Portuguese Kid is a well-crafted and entertaining play whose roots go all the way back to Greek mythology, though the legend of Atalanta, a princess who could outrun any man, doesn’t have much in common with Mr. Shanley’s play. Only the name “Atalanta” remains, and Sherie Rene Scott has filled her shoes delightfully, making a worthy adversary to Alexander’s blustery Barry Dragonetti.

Add to the mix the highly original Mary Testa as Dragonetti’s mother-from-hell and you have a mindless romp that allows three very gifted comic actors to keep the laughter going all through the evening. Most of my colleagues found it all a waste of time, but I thought the laughs forgave the blandness of the plot because Shanley writes excellent dialogue even if one wonders why the author of Doubt, Prodigal Son, Four Dogs and a Bone, and other memorable plays and films bothered with this one.

The Manhattan Theatre Club has given the play a first-class production, and John Lee Beatty has set it attractively in several solid sets that place it firmly in the world of the nouveau riche. The opening scene alone has enough fireworks in it to fill an arsenal, and Alexander and Scott play it as though Strindberg had a hand in it. It is strictly an entertainment, and I say if you ask just that of it you might just have yourself a good time watching three excellent farceurs working out for our benefit.

Running Time: One hour, forty minutes with no intermission.

The Portugese Kid  plays through December 10, 2017, at the Manhattan Theatre Club performing at City Center Stage – 131 West 55th St. in New York, NY. For tickets, call the box office at (212) 239-6200, or purchase them online.

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Richard Seff
RICHARD SEFF has been working in theatre since he made his acting debut in support of Claude Rains in the prize winning DARKNESS AT NOON, and he agreed to tour the next season in support of Edward G. Robinson, which took him across the nation and back for nine months. When it was over and he was immediately offered another national tour with THE SHRIKE with Van Heflin, he decided to explore other areas, and he spent the next 22 years representing artists in the theatre as an agent, where he worked at Liebling-Wood, MCA, eventually a partnership of his own called Hesseltine-Bookman and Seff, where he discovered and developed young talents like Chita Rivera, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Ron Field, Linda Lavin, Nancy Dussault and many others. He ultimately sold his interest to ICM. When he completed his contractual obligation to that international agency, he returned to his first love, acting and writing for the theatre. In that phase of his long and varied life, he wrote a comedy (PARIS IS OUT!) which brightened the 1970 season on Broadway for 107 performances. He became a successful supporting player in film, tv and onstage, and ultimately wrote a book about his journey, SUPPORTING PLAYER: MY LIFE UPON THE WICKED STAGE, still popular with older theatre lovers and youngsters who may not yet know exactly where they will most sensibly and profitably fit into the world of show business. The book chronicles a life of joyous work working in a favored profession in many areas, including leading roles in the regional theatres in his work in Lanford Wilson's ANGELS FALL. His last stage role was in THE COUNTESS in which he played Mr. Ruskin for 9 months off Broadway. Five seasons ago Joel Markowitz suggested he join him at DCTheatreScene. His accurate and readable reviews of the New York Scene led, when the time was right, for his joining DCMetroTheaterArts to continue bringing news of the Big Apple's productions just to keep you posted. He is delighted to be able to join DCMTA and work with Joel and hopes that you like what he has to say.