Privilege a study in good acting
Private schools and public ridicule.
The boys of Paul Weitz’ play Privilege experience both, thanks to their stockbroker father Ted’s misdeeds. As such, the play serves up a lesson in life and a study in greed but it is much more than that.
Privilege builds on family relationships – no matter how shaky the foundation. And that’s where the skilful acting of Theatre North West’s latest cast members comes in.
Most of them portray family members of a rich Manhattan family, people who have known each other all their lives. So there must be a natural, easy flow of dialogue.
Not an easy task for actors who, while used to making fast friends on the set, must now become “fast family.”
Opening night Saturday, local actor Benjamin Hirtz appeared as Ted’s son Charlie (a role shared with Jackson Williams). Hirtz brings to the part a very boyish charm, enthusiasm and personal warmth that I think endears him to the audience.
Aaron Stern is very believable as Charlie’s older brother, Porter. Stern totally won me over as the street-wise, old soul who sees through his father’s denials of wrongdoing and alternately tries to “smarten up” and then soothe his much more sensitive sibling.
Melissa Oei is well cast as Erla, the family housekeeper who has a friendly rapport with Charlie and Porter. Serious acting ability combined with comedic flair make her a joy to watch on stage.
Danielle St. Pierre is good in her role as Anna, the boys’ mother. Her character is another “outwardly strong woman” role for St. Pierre who also tackled roles in TNW’s All Shook Up and A Nice Family Gathering.
Jonathan Purdon is perfect as Ted, the self-absorbed, self-made man about Manhattan who falls prey to his own lust for lavish lifestyle.
Having met Mr. Purdon, I can say he seems very unlike his character in Privilege – even if his blue eyes and “crooked” smile does remind me of (nice guy) Paul Newman in the movie, The Sting.
Purdon has a strong delivery, good timing and stage presence, all of which help him slip into his character’s skin.
There are comedic moments and funny lines in Privilege but audience members will experience more pathos than humour. Some of it is very sad.
The play centres around two brothers who must learn to adjust to the new hand they are dealt after their father’s house of cards collapses.
In her program notes, TNW artistic producer Samantha MacDonald says:
“Ultimately, Weitz’ play is not about having money or losing money – it’s about being reminded of that which is worth most in life – family.”
Theatre North West presents Privilege by Paul Weitz at TNW in Parkhill Centre.
Director is Ted Price. Scenic design by Ted Roberts. The play runs until Feb. 27. Tickets are at Books and Company. Evening performances start at 8 p.m.