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Critic's Choice

Review: 'Farm Boy' at the Matrix Theatre

August 02, 2012|By David C. Nichols
  • Simon Lees, left, and Lawrence Pressman in 'Farm Boy' at the Matrix Theatre
Simon Lees, left, and Lawrence Pressman in 'Farm Boy' at the… (David Sprague )

The main question regarding “Farm Boy” is whether the storytelling so sensationally realized in “War Horse” can be evoked without a huge cast, evening-length scope and lifelike puppets. Courtesy of director David Fofi and actors Lawrence Pressman and Simon Lees, the answer is a quietly mesmerizing yes.

Daniel Buckroyd’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s sequel to his phenomenally successful account of a boy, a horse, and World War I is the diametric opposite of its award-winning predecessor. Utilizing two actors, minimalist means and an emphasis on character and language for its novella-short duration, “Farm Boy” tills one specific relationship to harvest fairly universal results.

Transpiring on the Devon farm where “Horse’s” hero Albert bonded with his steed Joey, “Farm Boy” concerns Albert’s son (Pressman) and great-grandson (Lees). The initial segment recaps the main events of the preceding play, but it gradually becomes apparent that Joey and Zoey, his mate, are almost tertiary.

Although “Farm Boy’s” centerpiece story follows a wager pitting the horses against a Fordman tractor, the piece is really about the connection between the senior and the youth. Their scenario, which turns on illiteracy, nostalgia and a love of the land, registers with affecting delicacy.

Fofi’s knack for illuminating text through simplicity and suggestion has never been sharper. Both players are redoubtable, recalling Ralph Richardson and the emerging Rupert Graves. Their unified work keeps us involved even when things near the prosaic, and recommend this engrossing West Coast premiere.

“Farm Boy,” Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; also, 3 p.m. Aug. 18, 25. Ends Aug. 26. $34. (800) 838-3006. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

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