Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Common Pursuit (Roundabout Theatre Company)

By Harry Forbes

Moisés Kaufman’s revival of Simon Gray’s now somewhat dated 1984 play about six Cambridge friends who found a literary magazine (the titular “Common Pursuit”) and the course of their lives over 20 years with its successes, disillusionments and betrayals, is a fine one. If memory serves, it’s superior to the 1986 New York Off-Broadway premiere despite a stellar cast that included Kristoffer Tabori, Nathan Lane, Peter Friedman, Judy Geeson, and Dylan Baker.

Against Derek McLane’s evocative sets – editor Stuart’s rooms at Cambridge, and then his office over the decades – the excellent ensemble cast inhabit their characters well and, though all American, register as convincingly British, only rarely descending to caricature.

There’s Josh Cooke as the ambitious Stuart, Kristen Bush as his ever-supportive girlfriend, then wife, Marigold, Kieran Campion as the womanizing, ethically challenged Peter, Jacob Fishel as rich kid Martin who becomes the publisher, Tim McGeever as the gay, self-deprecating Humphry, and Lucas Near-Verbrugghe as the affected, perennially coughing acid-tongued Nick.

In a way, the plot resembles that of “Merrily We Roll Along” in its look at the tarnishing of youthful idealism, though unlike the Sondheim-Furth musical, and the original Kaufman and Hart play, the action moves forward, except for the final scene which takes us back to Cambridge.

Kaufman directs most persuasively and makes a better case for the piece – often judged a poor relation to Gray’s “Butley” and “Otherwise Engaged” -- than the 1992 BBC adaptation which aired on PBS here, with Stephen Fry, Tim Roth, and Andrew McCarthy.

Clint Ramos’ costumes, David Lander’s lighting, and Daniel Kluger’s sound design are all fine.

(The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre / Laura Pels Theatre, 111 West 46th Street, 212-719-1300 or; through 7/29)
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