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Off-Broadway Review: “Harry Townsend’s Last Stand” at New York City Center Stage II (Through Sunday February 9, 2020)

Off-Broadway Review: “Harry Townsend’s Last Stand” at New York City Center Stage II (Through Sunday February 9, 2020)
Written by George Eastman
Directed by Karen Carpenter
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

It is always a pleasure to attend a performance of a play that stars two Broadway veterans and even better when it is a two hander because you are assured ample stage presence for both talented actors. Such is the case in “Harry Townsend’s Last Stand” written by George Eastman which features Len Cariou and Craig Bierko as a stubborn father and unrelenting son respectively. It involves the all too common situation of children trying to care for an elderly parent who is living alone, with failing health and refuses to move from the house that contains so many wonderful memories. The problem that seems to arise as the action moves along has nothing to do with the actors’ performances but stems from the pedestrian script they are committed to follow. Mr. Eastman falls prey to the mundane, a monster of stereotypical characters, situations and behavior that slowly sap the energy out of the proceedings all the while precipitating predictability. This would cause the play to rise to the level of sitcom, but it really isn’t that funny.

Harry Townsend has lost his wife and now lives alone in the chalet he has lived in for most of his married life, where he raised two children. His caretaker daughter who lives close by and is married to her fourth husband is ready to move to New York to try and salvage this union, supporting her husband’s decision to take a new job. Son Alan Townsend, who now lives in Los Angeles, makes a supposedly overdue visit to break the bad news to Harry and convince him to move into a senior living community. Argue, argue, argue; drink, drink, drink; walk down memory lane and a sentimental ending and there you go. There is not much more.

The cast competently does what the script demands and most likely follows the ponderous direction of Karen Carpenter. Unfortunately, the relationship of the duo comes across more like an acquaintance or old friend rather than a father and son. The situation seems more like a business transaction rather than a thoughtful, caring decision that would benefit all persons involved and institute a better quality of life for Harry. Mr. Cariou, at age eighty, seems to be a perfect fit for the role and brings an honest depiction along with a spirited wisdom to Harry. He is a joy to watch and if he falters one would never be able to determine if it was deliberate or spontaneous being the mark of a seasoned actor. Mr. Bierko is awarded the difficult role as son Alan, having to balance compassion, ingenuity and authority without seeming harsh and inconsiderate. He is somewhat successful but there does seem to be a lack of chemistry between the two which strains the viability of the relationship.

Ms. Carpenter moves the actors along comfortably but provides an uneven pace to the proceedings which sometime drag but this could also be attributed to the predictable script. Scenic design by Lauren Helpern reveals a homey lived in feeling to the chalet and is complimented by lighting designed by Jeff Davis which so accurately depicts the different times of the day. There is nothing new to be learned from this particular production about providing comfort for aging parents, but it may be worth a trip to the theatre just to see these two veteran actors together in nothing more than a sweet dramedy.

HARRY TOWNSEND’S LAST STAND

The cast of “Harry Townsend’s Last Stand” features Len Cariou and Craig Bierko.

“Harry Townsend's Last Stand” features scenic design by Lauren Helpern, costume design by David C. Woolard, lighting design by Jeff Davis, and sound design by John Gromada. General management is by Brierpatch Productions.

“Harry Townsend’s Last Stand” runs at New York City Center Stage II (131 West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues) through Sunday February 9, 2020 on the following performance schedule: Monday-Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are available online at https://www.nycitycenter.org/, by calling CityTix at (212) 581-1212, or in person at the City Center Box Office. Running time is 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission.

Photo: Craig Bierko and Len Cariou in “Harry Townsend’s Last Stand.” Credit: Maria Baranova
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Thursday, December 26, 2019