In the play, Mr Green (Mitchell), a crotchety and bitter 86-year-old Jewish widower, survives his loneliness by clinging to religious rules. However, after nearly being hit by the speeding car of young corporate executive Ross Gardiner (Gideon Turner), he finds an unlikely companion as Ross begins to make weekly visits (his sentence for reckless driving).
After its 1996 US debut starring Eli Wallach, Visiting Mr Green has gone on to be translated into 22 languages and performed in 37 countries. Mitchell, now 82, has played Mr Green twice before this current UK run, which is directed by Patrick Garland and comes to the West End following an autumn tour: in a 1999 production at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, and in a record-breaking Australian run.
Despite the play’s global success, however, London first night critics were decidedly lukewarm in their reaction to it. In a raft of two-star reviews, critics deemed the piece “over-sentimental”, “over-schematic”, “thin-textured”, “didactic” and “mechanical”. The rapport achieved between the two players nearly compensated for the flaws in the script for most critics, who were particularly full of praise for Warren Mitchell’s “beautifully judged performance” in the title role.
- by Theo Bosanquet
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