Jeff Baron has revised his 1997 two-hander Visiting Mr Green for this major British tour, and it has also been given a new production by Patrick Garland. It is the story of an elderly Jewish widower living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan who has been injured in a road accident. The car involved was driven by a finance house executive; part of his penalty is to perform community service, and specifically visiting Mr Green on a weekly basis.
The trouble is that Mr Green has no desire to be visited, least of all by this particular young man. Over eight weeks this unlikely couple manage to learn much about each other and find individual paths back to happiness as well as a special sort of tolerance.
Mr Green himself is a gift to any character actor. In this staging that actor is Warren Mitchell, who has already played the part in two previous productions. He suggests the vulnerability under a carapace forged from a deadly mixture of pain and hatred. You laugh at his waywardness, want to tip him back onto the normal paths of humanity yet cannot help admiring the stubbornness born of an absolute certainty and conviction. Mitchell looks as frail as the elderly man he portrays - and it's a long part for a man in his eighties to sustain - but he has the audience just where he wants it, on his side throughout.
No-one likes a careless driver, especially a brash one who feels none of it was really his fault. So David Sturzaker has an uphill task as Ross Gardiner to gain the sympathy of the audience as well as that of Mr Green. He does so subtly and with a very fine sense of timing for both the comedy and the sadness. Double lives are not easy ones to sustain.
The setting by Sean Cavanagh has just the right air of attic-flat seediness, born of neglect rather than deliberate slovenliness. Clouds pass over the New York skyline, but sunlight is in short supply through this apartment's windows until the very last scene. So, it's a happy ending, then. Perhaps yes. But then again, perhaps not.
- Anne Morley-Priestman