Sunday, February 04, 2007

Howard Katz

If the National Theatre website is accurate, Patrick Marber's play clocked in there at two and a half hours including an intermission. Here, presented by The Roundabout, it runs an intermissionless ninety minutes. Maybe it's been cut too deeply, because - despite a solid cast and at least a handful of attention-grabbing dramatic scenes - the play seems to be missing a great big something: why does career-centric talent agent Howard Katz suddenly begin to repel everyone in his life until he is left alone and suicidal? I've no idea, and I don't know why Marber is telling us this story. What we see is an unpleasant and abrasive man whose raging workaholism drives his loved ones, and then his career, away. He seems to begin to experience some moments of humility, but if that's the intention, the play does a poor job of defining his change: he seems just as miserable after his sweeping losses as before. Except for a wrenching moment of workplace humiliation that is something of a cousin to Death of a Salesman's "a man is not a piece of fruit" scene, and a heated argument between Katz and his father about the value of earning to provide - I didn't find any reason to care about or believe this character.

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