Thursday, September 21, 2006

Theophilus North

Let's hope Keen Company's production of Theophilus North doesn't fall by the wayside, brushed aside by the wind tunnel created by its faster, louder neighbors in the nascent fall season.

Matthew Burnett's play is based on Thornton Wilder's 1973 novel of the same name. (The book was turned into a movie in 1988, the impressively cast Mr. North.) By modern standards, Wilder's quaintly whimsical tale of the titular New Jersey teacher getting bogged down in Newport, Rhose Island, on his way to see the world isn't "edgy." But it's this very lack of anything resembling hipsterism that feels almost revolutionary at this point. Keen artistic director Carl Forsman and actor Giorgio Litt, in the title role, do a great job of suggesting that Theophilus' intrusions in the lives of his new neighbors often come burdened with an unspoken sense of superiority, but the character remains likeable because he always means well—and this is the kind of motivation you hardly ever seem to encounter in art these days. The creative team also never takes away from the sense of awakening to the world that permeates the work.

Theophilus North plays until October 14 at the Clurman on Theater Row.

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