We should all be so lucky to end up as spry and sharp at 75 as Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy, which debuted on Broadway in 1937 and has been given a handsome revival by Lincoln Center Theater at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre. The show’s old-country characters and cobblestone street slang may have aged into artifacts of Old New York, but the story still has plenty of energy and surefooted emotion even if it doesn’t quite pack a knockout punch.
Seth Numrick (War Horse) stars as Joe Bonaparte, a rough-and-tumble Italian-American kid who has the makings of a virtuoso violinist but wants to be a prizefighter instead. His father (Tony Shalhoub, with a marinara-thick accent) doesn’t understand why Joe would want to trade in his musical talent for short-lived glory in the ring, but Joe’s manager, Tom (Danny Mastrogiorgio), is all too happy to facilitate the deal. And then, of course, there’s a girl: Lorna, played by the excellent Yvonne Strahovski, who looks like Carole Lombard and talks like Carmela Soprano. A self-professed ”tramp from Newark,” she’s Tom’s mistress and Joe’s sweetheart and plenty smart enough to know the trouble that puts her in.
In the play’s opening act (the show runs nearly three hours with two intermissions), Odets’ razor-edge dialogue sets the drama in motion so intelligently and with such casual wit that each scene practically demands its own curtain call. It isn’t until the third act that weighty moral issues drag the show down from its high spirits. But by then you’ll be seduced fully enough by director Bartlett Sher’s light-footed pace and Michael Yeargan’s evocatively lean sets to root for Golden Boy to the final round. B+
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)