The Mentor – Daniel Kehlmann
Translated by Christopher Hampton
There has been much anticipation surrounding the appearance of F.Murray Abraham at the Ustinov this spring and suffice to say the production lived up to all expectations with a beautifully insightful, humorous and often painful examination of the fragility of human nature and the impact of words both written and spoken.
The Mentor is a sharp, witty play Kehlmann is a refreshing new voice and this is the first production of The Mentor outside of Germany.
We meet Benjamin Rubin (F. Murray Abraham) a once lauded writer basking in the reflected glory of past success.
Cantankerous, opinionated and downright difficult he is due to mentor the rising young star Martin Wegner (Daniel Weyman.) Wegner is “the voice of his generation” and the two huge egos are set on a collision course. Alongside Wegner is his wife Gina (Naomi Frederick) a brilliant art historian who has made many allowances for her husband’s genius with huge strength and resolve.
The discussion of the relationship between love, art, money, fame and legacy explodes around the space. The vulnerabilities and foibles of the writer neatly exposed as the layers of pretension are peeled away. This is a brave piece of writing by Kehlmann and the result is electric, brimming with poise and confidence. The onstage chemistry of the cast is fiercely strong. The repeated attempts of Erwin (Jonathan Cullen) the representative of the funding foundation to negotiate these bombastic egos is subtle yet desperately telling and painful.
F. Murray Abraham as Rubin brings a great quality to piece, a nuanced considered performance of depth and emotion equally matched by the rest of the excellent company.
Laurence Boswell has again directed an outstanding production, The Ustinov continues to present actors of a mighty calibre in work that is both challenging and hugely enjoyable. Long may it continue, do not miss the opportunity to see this piece.
**** – 4 Stars