I settled into my seat at Live Theatre Workshop Saturday for the opening of "Visiting Mr. Green" with a bit of trepidation:
I had seen the play years ago and found it excessively sentimental and quite tiresome.
Not so this production. Director Rhonda Hallquist approached the touching comedy with a restrained hand, allowing the humor and the heart to shine through.
The actors helped, too.
David Alexander Johnston's portrayal of the 86-year-old curmudgeon Mr. Green may be one of the best thing he's done on Tucson stages.
And Steve Wood's Ross, the young, hyper executive who visits Mr. Green every Thursday, was deeply rooted, giving his character an honesty and energy that never felt like "acting."
Ross is not visiting Mr. Green out of the goodness of his heart - he almost ran the elderly gentleman over in his car, and the court's penalty is these visits.
Mr. Green is even less happy about it than Ross - his wife has died, and he has retreated into a dirty house and an anguished soul. He wants to be left alone.
Johnston is in his 50s, but he seemed to understand fully what 86 means physically - a shuffle gait, reaching out for a bit of support when he walks, eyes that sometimes fill with a fear born of not knowing where he is or what he's done. The physical transformation was remarkable; so was the performance. Johnston saw to it that the journey the irascible Mr. Green takes is rooted in an honest reality. He would not allow the character to become a caricature.
Wood's Ross starts as an angry young man and grows into one with deep empathy. In Wood's hands, it's a journey wrapped in truth.
This Live Theatre Workshop production underscores the play's humor and spirit. Sure, the Jeff Baron play is a bit sentimental and sometimes predictable, but in the right hands - and these are the right hands - it can come off as moving and fresh.
• What: Live Theatre Workshop's production of "Visiting Mr. Green."
• Playwright: Jeff Baron.
• Director: Rhonda Hall-quist.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays, through Aug. 31.
• Where: Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway.
• Tickets: $18. Discounts available.
• Reservations, information: 327-4242, livetheatreworkshop.org
• Running time: About 90 minutes, with one intermission.
Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at email@example.com or 573-4128.