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NY Theater Reviews

Frank Langella/PH: Sara Krulwich

WHEN SILENCE ISN'T GOLDEN

By MATT WINDMAN

This revival of A Man for All Seasons gives us a chance-once again- to revel in the acting skills of one, Frank Langella. A towering performance.

Decapitation: it's the fad of the fall of Broadway! Just as Sydney Carton mounts the guillotine in A Tale of Two Cities, Sir Thomas More is similarly led up the stairs to meet the axeman. But as it turns out, losing your head is not the equivalent of good theater.

Sure, it's nice to have Frank Langella back on Broadway less than two years since his Tony-winning performance in Frost/Nixon. As anyone familiar with his work would correctly assume, Langella delivers a solid, committed performance as Sir Thomas More in the Roundabout revival of Robert Bolt's 1960 history play A Man for All Seasons. But to be frank, Doug Hughes' straightforward production is as dull and lifeless as it is altogether unnecessary

A Man for All Seasons , which is touted in a press release as a "timeless exploration of politics, religion and power," explores the final days of English Chancellor Sir Thomas More. A "man of conscience," More expresses moral objection to King Henry VIII's plan to leave the Catholic Church in order to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. Rather than publicly support or denounce the king, Moore chooses to stay begrudgingly silent.

Except for an exciting cameo from the zestful Patrick Page as King Henry, the first half of the play offers nothing but historical exposition and Catherine Zuber's elaborate 16th-century costumes, capes and robes.

Luckily, things get better after intermission. Once the drama's focus turns to More's moral trials and tribulations, Langella is able to take command of this previously sinking ship by forcefully emphasizing the character's humor, confidence and strength in suffering.

Whatever merit existed in the 1966 film version, which received six Oscars, has been lost in the shuffle. And while we do appreciate Langella's hard work and magnetic stage presence, this production comes off as little more than a three-hour history lesson and expensive costume party. Maybe Langella should take a shot at King Lear instead next time.