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  • ‘Orphans’ Offers Fine Actors Playing Synthetic Power Games

    When I saw the original Off-Broadway production of Lyle Kessler’s “Orphans” back in 1985, I found the play to be a tiresome mix of pilfered Pinter and stolen Shepard, notable solely for Steppenwolf Theatre’s visceral acting style, exemplified in the flashy performances of Kevin Anderson, Terry Kinney, and John Mahoney. Nearly 30 years later the play is getting its Broadway debut, but time hasn’t altered my assessment. “Orphans” remains as synthetic as ever, only now Tom Sturridge, Ben Foster, and Alec Baldwin do the bravura thesping.
    Once set in the present day but now taking place “sometime in the not-too-distant past,” “Orphans” doesn’t tell much of a story, content instead to mine a situation. Brothers Treat and Phillip occupy a crumbling house in North Philadelphia, having apparently lost their parents at a tender age; Treat, the elder, makes reference to having “raised” Phillip when Treat was “only a little boy.” Treat keeps the wolf from the door by robbing people at knifepoint, while Phillip never goes outside, convinced by Treat that allergies will kill him if he does. When Treat comes home one night with the drunken Harold, a

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