Brooklyn Boy at Taproot Theater

Jesse Notehelfer and Jeff Berryman in “Brooklyn Boy”, photo by Erik Stuhaug”

The question of “Can we go home again?” has already been asked and answered, but what about “Do we want to?” This question is at the heart of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Donald Margulies play Brooklyn Boy making its regional premier in a show directed by Karen Lund at the Taproot Theater in Greenwood.

Eric Weiss (Jeff Berryman) is a literary sort whose third novel, a semi-autobiographical story about a Brooklyn family, has finally brought him the success he’s always wanted but his joy is somewhat tampered by his dying father’s lack of enthusiasm. Robert Weiss is perfect as curmudgeonly Manny Weiss who just doesn’t “get” his son’s career and seems almost indifferent to “Ricky’s” need for validation. Eric Weiss is further unsettled by a chance encounter with childhood chum Ira Zimmerman (Alex Robertson) and he snarls out a rejection of Ira’s attempt to reconnect. Soon after, Eric is the one being rejected himself as his wife Nina (Lisa Peretti) makes it clear to him that she’s not kidding about wanting a divorce.

Eric’s trip to LA to work on the movie adaptation of his novel isn’t quite the victory lap he’s imagined either. Jesse Notehelfer turns in a finely nuanced performance as the pretty young thing he brings back to his hotel after a book signing; her mixture of bravado and insecurity perfectly echoes his own, forcing him to take a look at himself that he’s been desperately trying to avoid. A visit to film producer Mealanie Fine (Nikki Visel) begins as a satirically comical poke at the way “Hollywood” views the way the world looks at its product and becomes even funnier when Eric is introduced to teen idol Tyler Shaw (Nicholas Beach) who insists that he’ll be perfect for the lead role just as soon as he gets a new hairstyle. Reluctant Eric is badgered into reading the script along with Tyler and it is then that he is finally driven to his emotional breaking point. Finally back in his childhood home, Eric puts up one last fight but his defenses are destroyed and he must now, at last, open up the baggage he’s been carrying around with him the whole time.

As always, Taproot gets maximum impact from a minimalist set; sound and light make for rich, genuine environments. Brooklyn Boy is both serious and funny, often within the same scene, and the cast does an excellent job of balancing both drama and comedy without slighting either. Eric Weiss isn’t always likable, but Jeff Berryman does a great job of keeping him a sympathetic character throughout. Even at his most frustrating, you can’t help but keep pulling for him.

Brooklyn Boy continues through April 17, stick around after Wednesday shows for a post-play discussion. Advance tickets through the box office at 206.781.9708.

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