Writer: Jeff Baron
Director: Breda Cashe
Reviewer: David Doyle
Theatre is so often an intensely communal experience. Therefore it’s a particularly interesting medium through which to explore the complexities of loneliness in the modern world, which is exactly what Jeff Baron is examining in Visiting Mr. Green. It’s 19 years since the play was first staged and since then it has played in hundreds of productions in dozens of countries, and in its Irish premiere in the Viking Theatre, it’s easy to see why the show has had such a long theatrical life.
The show centres on Ross (Andrew Murray) and the titular Mr. Green (Terry Byrne), and the development of their burgeoning friendship in a New York apartment. Forced to visit the recently widowed Mr. Green after nearly running him over, Ross’s visits are initially unwelcome until a shared faith brings the two men from vastly different worlds together. However following a revelation about Ross’s sexuality their relationship is once again thrown into turmoil.
Visiting Mr. Green takes a serious look at Mr. Green’s loneliness as a result of bereavement and Ross’s at the hands of his sexuality and place in the modern world, and mixes it with a levity that blends effortlessly to create a charming piece of theatre. While the exploration of loneliness in modern society is timely, perhaps now more than ever, there is at times a feeling that the script is somewhat dated. In the almost two decades since it was written LGBTQ rights and the social position of gay people have advanced significantly, particularly in the New York, and the location of the show in a contemporary present means that many of the debates around sexuality feel somewhat lacking. Similarly the parallels drawn between the historical treatment of Jews and gay people feels somewhat overwritten, and lack the deftness of the rest of an otherwise delightful script.
Baron’s script is brought to life through two wonderful performances from Murray and Byrne. In particular Byrne’s performance as the titular Mr. Green is quite marvelous. He manages to craft a complex character and brings the audience on a journey that has both wonderful moments of laughter and sadness. Under the direction of Breda Cashe, Byrne is allowed to flourish and creates a performance that alone is worth the price of a ticket.
There’s much to admire in the production from fine performances, to a wonderfully realised set from Pauline Naughten, and a script littered with charm. Brief moments of clunky dialogue and poor sound design feel jarring in an otherwise well crafted piece but are brief enough to not detract from what is a delightful evening of theatre.
Runs until November 21st (not Sundays) | Image: contributed by the Viking Theatre