The Wyndham Theatre on the West End has been host to some wonderful productions, and some top-level stars over the years, and it certainly has not bucked that trend with its hosting of The Starry Messenger, starring Matthew Broderick.
Kenneth Lonergan’s tenderly thoughtful play about our own small and minute part in the endless universe explores how tough it can be to try to understand something that is so beyond us, and also, how we are supposed to make sense of our own lives.
Matthew Broderick plays the lead character; a middle-aged astronomy teacher called Mark that teaches night classes at the New York Hayden Planetarium and set around the time of 1997 when it was about to be torn down in place of the glass-boxed replacement situated on Central Park West.
Mark is on the hunt for a research post, and in doing so strikes up a love affair that comes to him looking for a class to bring her 9-year-old son into. She is also training to be a nurse and strikes up a very strong friendship with one of the patients on the cancer ward she is working on at the weekends.
Despite themes focusing around some of the larger cosmic questions of life and existence, Lonergan writes wonderfully about some of the most random events that occur in any of our lives; from the unplanned visit from the in-laws or dealing with confrontation or conflict at work. All of these themes really resonate with the audience and work as a great way to connect the audience to the dialogue and certainly leaves you thinking and reflecting on one’s own life.
It must be said that The Starry Messenger is quite a slow, long drawn out narrative, however, is one that is so thought-provoking it does not seem to matter so much. Directed by the talented Sam Yates, it does not take long or much effort to be able to see how the play’s intricate patterns are put in place deliberately and the play’s poetry and drama seem to really come to the forefront throughout.
The Starry Messenger originally premiered over in New York in 2009 when Lonergan actually directed the play also, and it too back then starred Broderick as Mark. And now, making his West End debut it seems like he is right at home in a role he has certainly made his own over the past several years. You will not be surprised that Broderick’s perfect mix of his boyish, young face with his natural greying hair works well with the character of Mark who is a character that is struggling with the realisation of a mid-life crisis.
The rest of the cast too works really well to bring out the meanings of the narrative, with Elizabeth McGovern showcasing a soul touching vulnerability, and Rosalind Eleazar as the nurse Angela, and Jim Norton as the patient; all of these characters touch souls effortlessly that is then shot across the auditorium.
For those looking for a thought-provoking play with a near – poetry like narrative, The Starry Messenger is one you do not want to miss.