- Chief New York Theatre Critic
- Outer Critics Circle
“The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/Gang aft a-gley.” – Robert Burns
Ever wonder how Adam Smith might spin his own free market economic theory in the throes of the current global economic turmoil? Ponder no more. “The Low Road,” currently running at the Public’s Anspacher Theater, ends the need for further speculation. In the engaging and entertaining play by Bruce Norris, the iconic eighteenth-century Scottish economist and philosopher (played with unscrupulous charm by Daniel Davis) narrates a tale of two centuries and how his economic theory “worked out” in the gap between theory and praxis.
The earlier tale takes place in eighteenth century America and finds Adam Smith devotee Jim Trewitt (the captivating and engaging Chris Perfetti) attempting to apply the economist’s “Wealth of Nations” theories to his sex workers’ business at his benefactor Mrs. Trewitt’s (the comedic and endearing Harriet Harris) establishment. It is no holds barred for the young entrepreneur who manages to utilize theory for his personal gain at any expense: his greed and disregard for any moral center is without limit. Jim’s penchant for monetary gain counterpoints his entrenched white privilege as well as his moral depravity. His disregard for his “property,” his servant John Blanke (the intense and gracious Chukwudi Iwuji) is as despicable as his xenophobia and the depth of his corruptibility.
Is Jim Trewitt’s preference for taking the low road something specific to this eighteenth-century spin on a free market economy? Apparently not if the beginning of the second act of “The Low Road” is any indication of the forward movement of humankind. The action moves to the twenty-first century where the audience “looks in” on a roundtable discussion led by Margaret Low (Harriet Harris) during which the participants (from a variety of backgrounds) boast about the “blessings” of wealth and its unbridled accumulation. The connection between past and present is clear and taking the low road remains the economic path of choice.
Under Michael Greif’s exacting and precise direction, the action moves forward smoothly with clarity and determination. The cast of eighteen, many of whom play multiple roles, are uniformly remarkable in their delivery of authentic and believable performances. In addition to those cast members already highlighted, Gopal Divan remains throughout fully committed to his various roles and engages with his colleagues with a welcomed intensity. Daniel Davis (Adam Smith) is remarkable in his ability to so successfully hold the sprawling piece together.
David Korins’ set is compact and serviceable. The multiple exits/entrances at the Anspacher keeps this compactness from seeming claustrophobic. The costumes by Emily Rebholz ring with credibility in both decades and the lighting by Ben Stanton seems to anticipate the moods of the action with uncanny accuracy. “The Low Road” is often unsettling; however, its importance to current discussions on greed and corruption is undebatable.
THE LOW ROAD
The complete cast of “The Low Road” features Tessa Albertson; Max Baker; Kevin Chamberlin; Daniel Davis; Crystal A. Dickinson; Gopal Divan; Harriet Harris; Jack Hatcher; Josh Henderson; Chukwudi Iwuji; Johnny Newcomb; Chris Perfetti; Susannah Perkins; Richard Poe; Dave Quay; Aaron Michael Ray; Joseph Soeder; and Danny Wolohan.
“The Low Road” features scenic design by David Korins; costume design by Emily Rebholz; lighting design by Ben Stanton; sound design by Matt Tierney; wig, hair, and make-up design by design J. Jared Janas and Dave Bova; and music composition by Mark Bennett. Production photos by Joan Marcus.
“The Low Road” runs at The Public’s Anspacher Theater through Sunday, April 8 on the following performance schedule: Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Public Theater Partner, Supporter, Member, and single tickets, starting at $75.00, are available by calling (212) 967-7555, visiting www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Running time is 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission.