CURRENTLY CELEBRATED 100 PERFORMANCES!! Reviewed Originally on December 4, 2019
By Sandi Durell
This is not a new story but playwright George Eastman puts a comfortable light-hearted spin on the topic of aging, losing a symbiotic spouse, dealing with child-parent relationships and leavening the loss, heartbreak and survival of aging with comedy.
Such is Harry Townsend’s Last Stand at New York City Center’s Stage II, directed with the gentle yet firm hand of Karen Carpenter. The repartee is quick and brisk.
When Harry (brilliantly played by Len Cariou), a feisty 85 year old widower, living in his lakeside home of 30+ years in Vermont, is visited by his son Alan (a perfectly cast Craig Bierko), whom he hasn’t seen in a year and a half, now living in California, a loving relationship is immediately evidenced between them, even though Harry is not only a kidder with a jolly nature, filled with expletives, life of the party type (think one-liners ala Henny Youngman), but also an obvious dyed in the wool pain in the backside kind of vociferous guy. He’s used to being in charge and now, especially, wants to take charge of himself and make his own living choices. However, Alan, just a weekend caretaker, what with his twin sister (who made daily visits to help her Dad) and her husband having taken off to refuel, Alan is finding out what that task entails.
Harry has fallen, tripped, put the coffee maker in the oven amongst a long list of forgetfulness. He also likes more than a nip of Jack Daniels and is obsessed with sex. His exploits with his willing spouse while alive are topics of major conversations. Alan would willingly like to cover his ears rather than listen but Harry does go on as they share memories and Harry has advice on any and all topics, including bodily functions and romance.
Things turn serious and anger pervades the nice, friendly father-son banter when Alan brings up the topic of moving into a retirement home (the kind with 3 tiers), where Harry would own his own condo apartment and be independent but have care available should those falls or more be future considerations. Stubborn Harry blows a cork, is defiant and storms out to eventually return and, more calmly, get to know and understand Alan without judging him nor attempting to make choices for him. They each discover new truths and realities about each other that are emotionally moving moments in this two act play.
Many thoughts are raised while watching this two-hander: Do children have the right to make decisions and actually sign all the documents to place an elderly parent in a facility without their consent? Can a father expect a son to walk in his shoes and if he doesn’t, bear resentment? Does father really know best?
You’re sure to relate to, enjoy and be touched by these two fine actors in the homey, warm Vermont setting created by Lauren Helpern that comes alive with Jeff Davis’ lighting.
Photos: Maria Baranova
Harry Townsend’s Last Stand – NY City Center Stage II, 131 West 55 Street, NYC
Run Time: 2 hrs 5 min with intermission – thru Jan 31, 2020