Music by: Tom Kitt
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Book by : Kwane Kawi-Armah & Brian Yorkey
Director: Daniel Sullivan
Choreographer: Lorin Latarro
Reviewer: Adrienne Sowers
The Public Theater is a New York theatrical landmark for good reason. Launching the trajectory of hundreds of phenomenal new plays (including Company and Hamilton before they moved to Broadway). Their newest production in the Newman Theater, The Visitor, will undoubtedly be among the many plays that will see explosive success at the Public and beyond.
A musical adaptation of the 2007 film of the same name, The Visitor follows the journey of Walter (played by the incomparable David Hyde Pierce) and Tarek (in a stunning performance by understudy Ahmad Maksoud for the October 30 matinee), after widower Walter returns to his New York apartment to find Tarek and his girlfriend Zainab (played by the captivating Alysha Deslorieux) living there after coming into the space thanks to a mysterious Ivan. Rather than throwing the couple out, Walter offers them a place to stay. After a foundationless arrest by the NYPD, Tarek finds himself transferred to an ICE facility, pending deportation (despite the fact that he has lived in the US since childhood). As Walter fights to help Tarek find freedom, he unites Zainab and Tarek’s mother, Mouna (played flawlessly by Jacqueline Antaramian), and discovers that the world is not as just and simple as he once believed.
Tom Kitt’s music and Brian Yorkeys’ lyrics soar. There is charm and heartbreak, the rhythm of heartbeat, woven into every bar. Kwane Kawi-Armah and Yorkey’s book is earnest, almost jarringly so at the beginning. As Walter, and “old white man,” is the audience’s guide through the story, the story feels like his evolving perspective as it continues. The language becomes less matter-of-fact. Characters connect on deeper levels. The stunningly evocative numbers “Lady Liberty” and “World Between Two Worlds” are dynamic and fill the space with the energy of BIPOC and women. They stand in stark contrast to Walter’s more simplistic solo “Better Angels.” This is clearly by design – Walter’s world fills with complexity and rhythm, and his desire for things to be as simple as he thought it was bleeds into his musicality.
Though the film The Visitor premiered in 2007, its premise and plot are just as, if not more, prescient today. The execution under Daniel Sullivan’s direction is remarkable. A powerful ninety minutes of theatre, this new musical more than merits a visit to the Public Theater.
Runs Until: 5 December 2021 | Photo Credit: Joan Marcus