Review of Manhattan Theatre Club's Long Lost at New York City Center

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    June 4, 2019
    Review by:

    War is difficult.

    A decorated general with multiple battles and front line experience is a good leader to follow. But each conflict is its own challenge, and although this tested general might know more of what to expect and how best to enter the fray, the winner is not necessarily the most seasoned and battle-hardened warrior.

    Theatre is also difficult.

    Tony Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan, and Tony, Drama Desk, Obie, Pulitzer Prize-winning Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC), with a script by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies, have staged Long Lost, the story of a well-to-do Manhattan family who’s rightfully labelled black sheep brother stops by at Christmas to bring everything but good cheer.

    Allow me to steal a remark from a patron sitting next to me that sums up the review part of this review, as he whispered to his companion half-way through the production, "Haven't we seen this play a bunch of times already?"

    David (Kelly AuCoin), a super successful financial consultant for the very wealthy is emotionally ambushed in his office, after coming back from a lunchtime tryst, by his alcoholic and drug-addicted older brother Billy (Lee Tergesen) who he hasn't seen or communicated with in years since Billy was in prison for 18 months because he passed out at the family farmhouse while taking drugs, burned it down and killed their parents inside. Sick and down and out and in need of more than just a handout, Billy begs his brother to take him into his posh Manhattan apartment that he shares with his wife Molly (Annie Parisse), an ex-corporate lawyer, who out of rich people guilt, is now running a non-profit for battered wives and their families that consumes her every waking moment. It is Christmas and their son Jeremy (Alex Wolff) is coming home for the holidays from his freshman year at Brown University and meets his uncle for the first time as an adult and not as a little kid. As is his habit, Billy randomly stumbles about dropping emotional hand grenades that blow apart a seemingly idyllic upper-class life. "Everyone who was supposed to love and protect me has betrayed me," pretty much sums up everyone's emotional state after the smoke has cleared.

    I have to rightly point out and highlight the talents of both Annie Parisse and Alex Wolff. They both lifted each scene, and the actors that were in it with them, and made the watching at New York City Center at least worthwhile.

    The play also does not live up to the wonderfully active and versatile set design. Utilizing three turntables, scenic designer John Lee Beatty has created an office, several rooms of a posh New York apartment (that continue to the depth of the stage) and a hospital setting that was entertaining in its own right in how it swivelled, came together and jigsawed into place as the play progressed.

    (Photo by Joan Marcus)

    "This dispiritingly predictable portrait of incompatible brothers, reunited after many years of estrangement, is truly surprising only in its failure to surprise."
    Ben Brantley for New York Times

    "Few playwrights depict domestic tension with the subtlety and insight of Donald Margulies. In Long Lost, two very different middle-aged brothers reunite for the first time in 10 years, still feeling the aftershocks of a devastating loss. In a quietly explosive 90 minutes, the play explores the difficulty of letting go of the past, and how seemingly small cracks in relationships can lead to foundation-shattering destruction."
    Diane Snyder for Time Out New York

    "Margulies writes like Neil Simon too, only with far fewer jokes. The absolute flatness of Billy’s encounters with David in his office and then Jeremy in the family’s luxurious Park Avenue apartment is punctuated only by several bombshells, which go off like clockwork every 10 minutes. Rather than ramping up the drama, these revelations about illness, incarceration, infidelities and a double homicide expose the mechanics of the plot."
    Robert Hofler for The Wrap

    "Watching the new drama written by Tony-nominated and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies, it's hard not to ask how the author of such nuanced and entertaining plays as Time Stands StillDinner With Friends and Sight Unseencould have written such a mechanical, contrived exercise. The only possible explanation is that the writer had been given the assignment of creating an expert parody of a family drama. If that's the case, he's succeeded perfectly with Long Lost, currently receiving its New York City premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club."
    Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter

    "Scribe Donald Margulies (a Pulitzer Prize winner for Dinner with Friends) knows how to write dialogue that remains civilized, but hits hard and below the belt."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety