In Clifford Odets‘ famous play Golden Boy, young Joe Bonaparte (Ty Boice) must choose between a violin and a pair of boxing gloves. It’s New York City during the Great Depression. Joe sees violinists on every street corner trying to make enough money to eat. Seeking another arena where he can become recognized, he dons boxing gloves and throws himself into training. He shows promise. He is introduced to a manager, Tom Moody (Jason Maniccia) and his sultry, salty Jersey girlfriend Lorna Moon (Tabitha Trosen). He wins a few fights. Things are looking up. Or are they?
Lakewood Theatre has done it again. It has revived another classic, this time a drama, and breathed new life into it as we watch Joe walk the tightrope between his old life and the new.
On one side is Joe’s father. Mr. Bonaparte (Gary Powell) holds the dream of Joe and his music, while big brother Siggie (Stan Brown) is over the moon about having an almost championship boxer in the family. As Joe’s internal conflict interferes with his work as a boxer, trainer Tokio (Jeff Gorham), Moody, Lorna, and even underworld figure Eddie Fuseli (Garland Lyons) get involved in trying to rid Joe of his ambivalence. And, they all want a piece of him.
What intrigued me most about the play was Joe’s intelligent dialog with himself and with Lorna–the only person who truly heard him–about his inner conflicts. He’s young, his world is confusing and convoluted. In a society obsessed with money, fame and KOs, Joe knows in his heart what is right for him, yet he is unable to cast his lot with the one person who can help him.
Golden Boy’s message is a sobering one fraught with jealousy, betrayals, and the power we all have to choose right or not-so-right in all its incarnations. The casting is excellent. I particularly appreciated the work of Tabitha Trosen, whose Lorna was Just Right. While she did not overplay her sexiness, she held a lot of power, and was a force to be reckoned with both in dealing with Joe and his self doubts (“Pick up your chin, little man.”) and her boyfriend/employer Tom Moody. Her performance was torn, understated, vulnerable, and completely captivating.
Golden Boy is directed by Vladimir Ilnitzky and his wife, Marcela Ilnitzky. It runs through February 14 on the Headlee Manstage at Lakewood Center for the Arts in Lake Oswego. Photo of Joe Bonaparte (Ty Boice) and his father, Mr. Bonaparte (Gary Powell), is by Triumph Photography