Two-time Emmy winner Daniel J. Travanti’s attraction to Oren Safdie’s two-character comedy-drama The Last Word . . . is understandable. In the role of Henry Grunwald, a former ad exec who’s decided to spend his twilight years writing plays, Travanti gets to act the lovable curmudgeon, the wounded old man who fled Hitler’s Germany as a child, the naughty septuagenarian roué who is something of a philosopher. It’s all showy stuff, and Travanti—virtually unrecognizable under a mane of long, white hair—delivers each side of the old codger’s personality with aplomb. Equally adept is Adam Green as Len, an NYU playwriting student who’s come to Henry’s office for a job interview. Len’s just as opinionated about playwriting as Henry, and none too patient with the older man. Henry pontificates and dictates bad dialogue for his plays, and Len gets in a few good one-liners along the way. All the while, theatergoers wait for the moment when the two will reach a sort of uneasy understanding. This moment doesn’t come easily—and when it does, it arrives with cloying cuteness in director Alex Lippard’s heavy-handed staging. Travanti’s (and, to a lesser degree, Green’s) attraction to Word is apparent. Its lure for theatergoers, however, remains a mystery.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 13, 2007