attain its full potential.
Prolific playwright Foote has reversed the usual order of dramatic
construction. His climax actually arrives early in the play, and the
balance of the evening is spent attempting to ascertain just what led to
these traumatic circumstances. Fringe characters are introduced and
occupy entirely too much time and attention, while expository events are
delivered by one character, then recycled by another a bit later.
Director Phyllis Gitlin has given us a moving experience, but one that
doesn't move with sufficient velocity, as though it would border on
heresy to trim the fat from this corpulent creation. Why, for instance,
is an elderly lady who once served as a maid for the central couple
introduced? What does her presence accomplish in furthering the story?
Nevertheless, "Young Man From Atlanta" contains a pair of stellar
performances in the central roles of Will and Lily Dale Kidder, whose
lives are thrown into turmoil almost from the first line of dialogue.
Will is a proud businessman, approaching 60, whose financial feet are
kicked out from under him, while his wife is a pathetic study in
Jack Messenger delivers a magnificent interpretation of an angry
produce company executive whose abrupt dismissal after 38 years with his
company -- and just after he's built a $200,000 home, a mansion in the
1950s -- culminates in a heart attack when he learns the family's nest
egg has been doled out to a silver-tongued con man who's profiting from
their grown son's suicide. Messenger is superbly accurate in his
portrayal, ranging from emphatic roaring to painful capitulation.
As his equally pained and emotionally conflicted wife, Harriet
Whitmyer beautifully conveys the picture of a vulnerable Southern
homebody who has allowed religion to consume her life in the absence of a
loving son and supportive husband. Whitmyer's heartache is skillfully
enacted as she continues, against her husband's wishes, to contact the
unseen "young man" who may provide a link to her departed son.