ORPHANS at The Bridge Theater
Directed by Aaron Latham
A stage performance of a play is obviously not real but rather a combination of dramatic elements which support the actors’ performance. A play succeeds when it persuades the audience to willingly suspend disbelief, to accept the play and its characters as real. The vibrant performances of Alex Montaldo as Philip, Fady Kerko as Treat and Gregg Prosser as Harold in the revival of Orphans now playing at the Shetler Theater easily succeeds in suspending our disbelief and drawing us into the tragic world of the orphans.
Philip and Treat are orphans who survive on Treat’s petty thievery. Treat is fiercely protective of and dominates Philip, who he keeps as a virtual prisoner in their parents’ dilapidated house, depriving Philip of a life, constraining him to look out of his window and watching reruns of the ‘Price is Right’. Philip struggles to escape these constraints by reading voraciously, which Treat discourages. This changes when Treat kidnaps Harold, a more sophisticated thief who quickly persuades the orphans to participate in his crimes and usurps the role of father for Treat and becomes the agent of Philip’s metamorphosis.
Alex Montaldo’s performance is transcendent. He plays Philip perfectly, combining a childlike innocence with an irrepressible urge to experience the world beyond the narrow confines of his life with Treat. He persuades us to suspend our disbelief, to believe in him and to sympathize with his struggle to escape Treat’s violence and dominance. Fady Kerko gives a strong performance as Treat. He imbues Treat with a constant threat of violence, intimidating Philip while at the same time loving and wanting to protect his little brother. Gregg Prosser succeeds in playing Harold, as both a threat and a blessing for Treat and Philip. He imbues Harold with a hint of pederasty disguised as fatherly affection that is both subtle and proportionate.
This strong cast of Orphans easily succeeds in securing suspension of our disbeliefs. It draws us into the orphans world encouraging us to experience their pain and frustration. That experience is well worth the effort.