Thu Feb 1 2007
Photograph: Michael Brosilow
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5
Huh? Where was I? Oh, right: Frank’s Home. Right. Sorry, I nodded off a bit for a moment there. But who could blame me? Richard Nelson’s autumnal drama about the architect Frank Lloyd Wright shares little of its subject’s commitment to structural innovation: It is built with an eye to solid functionality. In the play’s first scene, his peevish son (Jay Whittaker) and shambling mentor (Yulin) begin sketching a young schoolteacher, but Wright (Weller) will have none of it. “I’m not good with people,” he says. “I’m drawing a building.” This thesis statement is reiterated, in varying degrees of obviousness, for the next 100 minutes.
Looking for Mr. Wright is a promising enterprise, but Nelson finds little to justify the search. Notwithstanding a few flights of rhetoric about the importance of beauty, and a smattering of biographical detail, this play’s Wright is a stock figure of absent fatherhood, stringing along his jilted children with alternations of affection and abuse. (He pulls the same trick with his antsy and frazzled mistress, played by Mary Beth Fisher.) Yulin’s broke, broken Louis Sullivan cuts a sympathetic figure, but the family struggle at the core of the play is static. Weller, perhaps compensating for the snooziness of the writing, punches out his lines with a growly truculence that strongly recalls his posturing as host of the History Channel’s Engineering an Empire series; now twirling his cane like a vaudevillian, now thrusting it like a fencer, he seems more like an aging actor than an aging architect. But no such theatrics can mask the dullness of his character: Frank’s ho-hum. — Adam Feldman