Some consider it a snub that Alec Baldwin was not nominated for a Tony Award today for his role in “Orphans” while co-star Tom Sturridge was recognized.
Wonderful as Baldwin can be, which he proved constantly on “30 Rock,” it’s Sturridge who turns in the most compelling performance in this revival of Lyle Foster‘s offbeat play.
The play revolves around two brothers, Phillip (Sturridge) and Treat (Ben Foster, “360” “Freaks and Geeks”). Foster replaced Shia LeBouf in the role, who was publicly complaining during rehearsals. The cast change delayed the opening, but the play, a strange slice of life, is one that never quite comes together.
Phillip is developmentally disabled and Trent is a thief and mugger.
They live, as the title states, without parents in a ramshackle house that would have to improve to qualify for squalor.
Phillip watches TV all day while Trent is out robbing and beating people. One night he brings home a guy, Harold, (Baldwin) whom Trent thinks is an easy mark. Harold and Trent get drunk, and Harold shares his story that he grew up in orphanage.
“Orphans were always dropping dead,” Harold says. “They have a terrible mortality rate.”
Harold passes out, and Trent rifles through Harold’s briefcase, and finds stock certificates and bonds. Trent ties him up and gags him, leaving Phillip to guard Harold.
Harold frees himself of his binds, and quickly gains Phillip’s trust. Soon, he has both brothers under his spell, and gets Trent to work for him. You know pretty early on that nothing good is going to come from this relationship.
There’s no getting around that this is an odd play. It never fits together that Trent would have brought home someone he thinks he is a mark, or that Harold, persuasive as he may be, could so instantly charm Trent. In fact, it just does not fit together well, though this has been a popular play during its various stagings.
The three actors feel as if they are in separate productions, but Sturridge’s athleticism is one of the more interesting aspects. As Phillip, he rarely touches the floor preferring instead to hop from couch to chair to windowsill.
He also brings a sweetness and lightness to the role, where Foster is mostly enraged and Baldwin is workmanlike.