This article is from 2006.
You'll be familiar with the film, and perhaps the book of this notorious yet much loved tale of a young cowboy wannabe gigolo and the disabled grifter he teams up with. Tim Fountain’s version is closer to the film, and a pretty slick rendition it is.
In it, of course, we meet ersatz cowboy Joe (Charles Aitken), whose initial ambition is tempered by the experience of a New York in steep decline, where a scramble over the loose change of class betters leads to desperate encounters with religious fanatics, sad repressed gays and unsavoury bohemian outcasts. The tragic dimension to the piece is evident from the up in the character of Rizzo (Con O’Neill), and never looks like diverting until its heart-rending finale.
John Clancy’s production nuances the emotional attenuation of these characters deftly, and counterpoints their personal dilemmas with a background commentary on American society of the time, with references to Vietnam, the Stonewall riots and the moon landings. It was a time when the old Gods were in decline, the moral uncertainty of the period perhaps paralleling our own. Thus Joe and Rizzo’s understated love affair is captured in a couple of memorably understated sequences, and these contrast effectively with the advice of a salesman given early on to ‘sell yourself’ bringing a rather Willy Loman-like element to events. The supporting cast, which includes Americana Absurdum regulars Nancy Walsh and David Calvitto, as well as a cleverly comical Emma Kennedy, is strong, while the leads, especially O’Neill’s Rizzo are truly splendid. If one wishes there had been a little more of the dream life of Joe, occasionally highlighted, but not fully fleshed, this still amounts to a powerful night of theatre. (Steve Cramer)
Assembly Rooms, 226 2428, until 28 Aug, 1.15pm, £17.50-£20 (£15-£16)