Through February 12
The Old Globe Theatre
(The White Theatre)
- Tues & Wed 7 p.m.
- Fri 8 p.m.
- Sat 2 & 8 p.m.
- Sun 2 & 7 p.m.
Playwright Jonathan Caren takes a major step in his Old Globe premiere
By Cuauhtémoc Kish | Downtown News
The character Aaron, played by Evan Todd, in The Old Globe Theatre’s current production of Jonathan Caren’s “The Recommendation,” makes his initial entrance wearing nothing but a white towel. It is shock-value but not shocking, and although Caren knows how to grab our attention in the first scene of this well-crafted memory play, he gives audience members much more than simple, youthful flesh.
Caren has a firm grip on a story about friendship, social debt and privilege, and delivers it up with a pulse that keeps our attention throughout.
Iskinder (Izzy), played by Brandon Gill, narrates the story of three young men in different social strata from his middle-class point of view. Izzy is an unconnected son of an Ethiopian-born father who has sent him off to an Ivy League college where his roommate, Aaron, schools him in non-credited classes like back scratching, privilege and fortune.
Their friendship continues post-graduation as Izzy secures a job at a prestigious law firm with help from Aaron’s father, while Aaron begins his career in the Los Angeles film industry as a personal assistant. Aaron does this, as Izzy did, with a little help from his father.
The third man in this dramatic triangle is Dwight, played by Jimonn Cole, who has no connections, no collegiate education and even less money. By coincidence, Dwight and Aaron find themselves together in a holding cell. When they are transferred to a county jail and Aaron’s father fails to bail him out—to teach his son a lesson—Aaron realizes he must barter protection by promising Dwight favors when released.
To no one’s surprise, Aaron fails to follow through on his promise to Dwight. This failure manages to haunt Aaron, especially when Dwight is released from prison as a result of an assist from Izzy, who pens a successful appeal for his pro-bono client.
Jonathan Munby’s capable direction underscores the energy of the play. Munby even goes so far as to choreograph the scene changes, highlighting the exuberance of his three youthful players and the tension that hangs between them. He balances the easy humor with audience interaction and finds a proper place for Dwight’s peppered slang, Aaron’s easy braggadocio and Izzy’s overriding moral concern.
All three actors, as well as the playwright, hail from Julliard; the school should be proud of its alumni package of exceedingly bright talent. Todd handles the challenges of his privileged character with youthful vigor while Gill narrates and interacts with a commanding, self-absorbed presence. Cole plays bravado, agitation and impotence with equal measure.
Alexander Dodge designed a minimalist metal set that serves the play well. Lighting designer Philip Rosenberg coolly lit the set, focusing attention directly on the actors.
As many learn, there is more to most individuals than mere muscle power. Caren brings us the exterior of three individuals and then digs deep to display what is bubbling inside. He has a good handle on the subject—friendship, patronage and nepotism—and displays both the beautiful as well as the ugly in his first major step as a playwright.
This fresh, new work is highly recommended.