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Howard Katz

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Howard Katz: Joan Marcus

In Patrick Marber’s Howard Katz, the titular sharp-tongued London superagent finds comedy in robbery and cremation, completely alienates both family and office mates, gamely insults his hardworking prostitute, and still manages to earn our sympathy. For that we thank British character actor Alfred Molina. Molina is a long way from the warmth of the shtetl here, playing Katz, a sharp-tongued agent to bottom-feeding London celebutards. Disillusioned with his monotonous family life and his profitable but scummy career, he takes midlife crisis to a new level, with a rapid descent into divorce, unemployment, and homelessness. Along the way he delivers a few hilarious one-liners (”Is this a guilt trip or a mugging?” he asks a would-be robber) and melodramatic clunkers (”I just want you to be content. Not even happy. Content is enough”) characteristic of Marber (Closer). The dialogue drags (especially during drawn-out scenes between Howard and his troubled parents), but Molina’s performance crackles. Pity, then, that the play provides only a surface look at Katz’s meltdown; despite watching him come apart at the seams, we never quite understand the psychological triggers — too much time is wasted on superficial subplots (the now-homeless Katz is angry when his estranged wife takes a lover). Though there is a fine supporting cast — notably Taboo survivor Euan Morton as a wise street kid — Howard Katz often feels like a one-man show. It might have worked better as one. B-