Through October 7|
GOLDEN BOY Andrews Theatre/Irish Classical Theatre Company
For generations, boxing was the way out of poverty for immigrants and African-Americans, at least it was the perceived way out for many.
They ignored the odds, the Mob involvement, the brain damage.
In "Golden Boy," Playwright Clifford Odets saw that quest for success in the ring as a metaphor for trying to succeed in the depths of the Great Depression, for one young Italian-American, Joe Bonaparte (Anthony Alcocer), in a luminous performance.
He’s an ace violinist at 21, with no real money in his musical skill while he sees money in boxing and an outlet for his anger.
He stumbles into the control of sleazy boxing manager Tom Moody (Christian Brandjes) and in turn into lethal mob enforcer Eddie Fuseli (Eric Rawski).
And, he falls under the spell of Moody’s girlfriend Lorrie Moon (Cassie Cameron), the self-proclaimed Tramp from Newark, who is Moody’s Tuesday night friend.
The manager is promising marriage if he can just raise enough money to pay his wife to go away.
The moral anchor of the show is Joe’s father, Mr. Bonaparte (Rolando Martin Gomez), who doesn’t approve of boxing, preferring the union activism of other son Frank (David Autovino).
Moody’s goal is a classic boxing match for a title, White Joe Bonaparte against the Black “Chocolate Drop Kid” (Gabriel Robere).
As he climbs the boxing ladder in a series of dozens of quick matches around the East, Joe starts accumulating money and signs of wealth, the custom suits and the really fast Duesenberg.
Perhaps his only ally is trainer Tokio (David Lundy), who has seen it all and recognizes what’s going on.
For the audience, it’s a learning process to actively dislike Joe as victory and wealth turns him against his family and deeper into the control of Fuseli, with Rawski delivering a wonderful performance as the lethal part-owner of Joe.
This is a script with no good endings, with a bad end inevitable.
Director Fortunato Pezzimenti has a strong and large cast for this season-opening show, not only Alcocer, Cameron, Brandjes, Gomez and Rawski.
The basic problem is the script.
Not that it’s a bad script, but it’s outdated, reflecting the times when Odets wrote for the heavily political Group Theatre.
The base of the show is the power and importance of boxing on the sporting scene and the surrounding labor organizing struggles of the Thirties, especially where brother Frank is organizing in the textile industry.
Both boxing and the labor movement are essential to the story and their lack of relevance today skews the overly-stuffed script to the central story of a boy and a girl, which really wasn’t intended.
Even so, it’s a good story with those strong performances and “Golden Boy” is really worth seeing.
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