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.
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.