Michael Richard and Roberto Pombo star in a new production of the well-loved and inspirational Visiting Mr Green. Picture: Supplied

The friendship that forms between Mr Green and Ross Gardiner is a very complex one. Through its workings, it gives the outsider a glimpse into what happens when very prejudiced themes contrast when a relationship develops. 

Mr Green (played by Michael Richard) is a lovable yet difficult Jewish elder, who has been placed in the care of Ross Gardiner (played by Roberto Pombo). Gardiner, in turn, initially resents the arrangement.  

He is here because a New York judge sentenced him to six months of community service (that would be the chore of looking after Mr Green) after he almost ran the elderly man over.

The first two acts of the play highlight the awkward contact between Mr Green and Gardiner, with Mr Green attempting to avoid any communication with Gardiner until the younger man brings him food as a peace offering. 

The gesture however lays down the foundation of the friendship between the elderly man and the stubborn New Yorker.

Michael Richard (left) and Roberto Pombo in Visiting Mr Green, which explores bigotry and the importance of emotional values. Picture: Supplied

Michael Richard is striking as the star of the play as Mr Green – a man who struggles to accept or move on from certain situations presented to him in the first two acts, such as the death of his wife, the lack of knowledge about Ross Gardiner’s career at American Express, and Gardiner being a Jew. 

There is also the revelation of Ross Gardiner’s sexuality and Mr Green’s difficulty accepting this.  Mr Green reacts to this revelation by repeatedly involving their religious values, which makes for a comical scene and only heightens the awkward nature of their interaction.

This play has been around for more than 20 years. 

The writer, Jeff Baron, created an interesting story that tackles the ideas of prejudice, religion and family values which are still relevant two decades after Visiting Mr Green was first penned. 

Both Gardiner and Green have the ability to peel open the complex layers of their lives and coax each other enough to heal those parts that have been left as open wounds.

For Mr Green, it is the estranged relationship that he has with his daughter, with whom he cut communication for marrying a “goy” (a non-Jew).

For Gardiner, its the search for someone who could understand the pain he is dealing with in terms of accepting his sexuality, his family and his former lover. 
After a thorough investigation of such pertinent issues, the conclusion of Visiting Mr Green feels a bit contrived.

The ends seem to tie up nicely for Mr Green, preparing to meet his daughter after so many years, while Ross Gardiner appears to head off in search of his former lover, on the advice of his elderly friend. 

Visiting Mr Green plays on the curiosity of the audience, whose members wish to see what transpires between Mr Green and Ross Gardiner – but towards the end, the only word that I could think of to describe  it was “cute”.

M_Rantao

IOL