Jason Alexander plays a Mama’s boy who recently married a “Puerto Rican firecracker” half his age; Sherie Rene Scott, a twice-widowed Greek bombshell, is shacking up with a dumb, moon-struck Italian half her age. The Puerto Rican firecracker and the moon-struck Italian were once an item. The Mama’s boy and the bombshell have been friends since childhood, and have had the hots for one another all that time without realizing it.
“The Portuguese Kid,” the latest play written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, is as predictable as it is old-fashioned – a hoary pseudo-romantic comedy trafficking in insulting stereotypes that died well before Don Rickles did. If there are any larger or deeper questions the show provokes, they are not about gender relations given the current political climate, as a few seconds of dialogue may lead you to believe. They’re more along the lines of: Why would the Manhattan Theatre Club produce such a show?
- Somebody at MTC actually thought the barrage of cheesy one-liners was funny. Sample exchange:
Jason Alexander character talking about employing his mother at his law office:
“She answers the phone. It keeps her occupied.”
Sherie Rene Scott’s retort:
Occupied? What is she, France?
(In fairness, I found at least four jokes amusing, and, judging by audience laughter, some found many more.)
- If cast right, they must have figured, the play would draw in a crowd.
And for what it’s worth, “The Portuguese Kid” is cast right. The stand-out is Mary Testa as the dragon lady of a mother, Mrs. Dragonetti, who trades over-the-top insults with the two other women. But it’s hard to find fault with any of the five actors, who do their best to convince us we’re watching is sparkling entertainment.
The production values are also high , as we go from day wear to night wear, from law office to bedroom to front yard to back yard, with most of the designers Tony-winning legends.
- Finally, I suspect MTC produced “The Portuguese Kid” out of loyalty to the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of Doubt and the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Moonstruck, whose plays have found a home at MTC for more than 30 years.
That brings up a question for theatergoers: How loyal are you willing to be?
The Portuguese Kid
Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center
Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley
Set design by John Lee Beatty, costume design by William Ivey Long, lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski, sound design and composer Obadiah Eaves
Cast Jason Alexander, Pico Alexander, Aimee Carrero, Sherie Rene Scott and Mary Testa
Running time: 100 minutes with no intermission
Tickets: $95 to $112.50
The Poruguese Kid is set to run through December 3, 2017