Sturridge, Baldwin, Foster
Sturridge, Baldwin, Foster
Joan Marcus

by: Sandi Durell

The play opens as mentally challenged Phillip (Tom Sturridge) springs from floor to couch to window sill, to stairs, as if possessed by another being, or perhaps with longings to be a spider, his derelict looking brother Treat (Ben Foster) coming home, followed by an inebriated older man carrying a briefcase; Harold mumbling remembrances of those Dead End kids on late night TV. A guitar is shattering the quiet against a shabby environment.

Orphans is a dark comedy about commonality or the lack of, gaining control over negative emotions, over other people and finding a life you thought you never could have. Brothers Phillip and Treat are orphaned, Treat taking care of his younger brother who spends his time watching TV and eating tuna and mayonnaise. Treat is a volcano, erupting without any control. But when he finds the well to do Harold in a bar in downtown Philly, he is already plotting holding him for ransom.

He ties Harold up in a chair, tells Phillip to watch him and leaves never imagining the change in his plans. When he returns, Harold has removed the ropes (as he talks incessantly about Houdini) and is free. Harold has taken a liking to the two brothers as if they present a challenge to mold them and show them another side of life.

Sturridge is weird – crazy in his actions and over the top as he leaps here and there, his long hair and mismatched outfits shedding light on his individual story. Foster took over Shia LaBeouf’s role as Treat when LaBeouf walked out of rehearsals. Foster plays a crazed sort of guy, wielding a knife and using violence to get what he wants. He exhibits a wide range of emotions.

Baldwin has a great role filled with all the punch lines as he takes on a fatherly character molding the two boys, giving them new lives and visions. Just a little encouraging squeeze for Phillip proves positive and life-changing.

Act 2 sees Treat walking a much straighter line as he appears in a suit, the newly employed assistant and “yes” man to Harold, and Phillip thrilled with his new yellow loafers. But Harold has enemies who change the dynamics for the three orphans (don’t want to give it all away).

The overall problem is that if one was to test this scenario for reality factors, you’d find very few exist and that most of the play is conceptually far-reaching and improbable. But there are enough laugh lines and good acting to keep you interested.

The shabby to less shabby interior is the work of John Lee Beatty, costumes by Jess Goldstein with lighting by Pat Collins. The play is directed by Daniel Sullivan.

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, West 45 Street, NYC, thru June 30th, 212 239-6200