Strong leads save Visiting Mr. Green 

Silver & Gold

With its universal themes of age relations, religion, and homosexuality, it’s no wonder that Jeff Baron's Visiting Mr. Green is one of the most produced plays in the world. What is a wonder, however, is how this show continues to thrive in an age when countless plays and movies handle the same issues in a less dated way.

To give you a brief lead-in, the titular character Mr. Green (played by Ross Magoulas) is almost run over by a wild-driving young business drone named Ross (played by JC Conway). A judge orders Ross to visit Mr. Green, a reclusive shut-in whose wife recently passed away, once a week for several months. And now you’re off to the races on a plot with points you can probably fill in yourself. Needless to say, expect a friendship to develop that challenges both men’s preconceived notions about each other, and then startling revelations that threaten to destroy the fragile bonds that are only just being built.

Magoulas gives a wonderfully charming performance, giving Mr. Green enough sass and spunk to please even Ed Asner on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. JC Conway as the younger man who must take care of this unfortunate stranger brings lots of warmth and compassion to the role. Both actors skillfully work the humor in the first act of the play, and give gravity to the events of the second act, particularly Magoulas’ freak-out scene late in the play.

But even with these two veteran actors, director Robin Burke fails to make the show fresh for today’s audiences, and therefore the play suffers from stagnation in many scenes. A large part of this is due to the fact that many of the scenes between Conway and Magoulas lack the youthful energy that is necessary to convey the differences in the generations between the characters. Conway comes off as miscast, and I found myself wishing for a younger actor to balance out the calculated calm of Magoulas.

The set design by Robin Farmer and Ryan Ahlert stands out for its attention to detail and overall execution. Farmer and Ahlert take a straightforward approach to Mr. Green’s lived-in apartment, and what it lacks in stylistic flair it more than makes up for in authenticity. Jeannie Joyner’s costume design deserves commendation for its subtle yet substantial contribution. Each change of shirt for Ross signals the passage of time to the audience. Props to both Joyner and Burke for this simple yet sublime solution.

Visiting Mr. Green’s biggest shortcomings come from a dated script and a lack of decisions to spice up the aging play. However, Midtown/Sheri Grace Productions does manage to provide an enjoyable night of theater with some strong performances from Conway and Magoulas.


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