By Diana Saenger
New Yorker Ross Gardiner (Craig De Lorenzo) seems to have the perfect life. He’s young, handsome, attended Harvard, and makes a good living at American Express. When he’s charged with reckless driving, that perfect life becomes a roller-coaster ride into chaos. Jeff Baron’s script for “Visiting Mr. Green,” (playing at North Coast Rep through March 11) rolls out a story between two of the most unlikely men to ever come together. Mr. Green (played by Robert Grossman) spends his days alone in his messy apartment mourning the loss of his wife. Normal activities like eating or picking up his mail, no longer seem necessary to him.
Then Ross Gardiner knocks on his door. Ross reminds Mr. Green that by an order of the court, he will be “helping” him for the next six weeks because he is the driver who almost ran him over when Mr. Green stepped in front of his car.
The play has won numerous awards worldwide and builds on the natural humor that results from two men of different generations trying to understand each other. Many of the laughs come from the quick and sharp banter between Ross and the 86-year-old Mr. Green, who is beginning to show signs of forgetfulness.
Grossman as Green is the perfect grump when wanting Ross to get out of his apartment, and most amusing when he answers Ross’ questions with questions. His turtle-like shell is hard to crack, but eventually he sticks out that lonely neck for help.
De Lorenzo as Ross, is tolerant but frustrated with trying to help Mr. Green. Ross brings food to an empty refrigerator, removes countless newspapers from floors and tables, and attempts to get Mr. Green to read his week-old mail. Still, his thoughtful efforts are met with verbal abuse and dead ends.
It’s in the second act that these two characters come together across a continental divide of raw emotion and understanding as they discover startling facts about each other.
Some audience members reacted to this beautiful story by wiping tears from their eyes. Directed by Christopher M. Williams, the exceptional performances bring to life the humanity of experience and existence.
A final round of applause for a fantastic set that perfectly serves its story goes to the North Coast Repertory Theatre team — scenic designer Marty Burnett, costume designer Renetta Lloyd, sound design and production manager Aaron Rumley, prop and set dresser Annie Bornhurst, scenic artist John Finkbiner, and stage manager Cindy Khoury.
If you go
What: ‘Visiting Mr. Green’
When: Matinees and evenings to March 11
Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre
987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach
Box Office: (858) 481-1055