Visiting Mr. Green, Northlight Theatre, at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Ross Gardiner is a young, gay executive ordered by the court to make weekly visits to Mr. Green--an 86-year-old Jewish widower--after he hit him with his car. And if you got a dollar for every familiar moment or line in Jeff Baron's bittersweet two-character comedy, you'd recoup the ticket price before the end of the first act. By the time Ross turns to the old curmudgeon and says, "Now we're stuck with each other; let's try to make the best of it," you'd be rolling in dough. Naturally this odd couple moves from mutual dislike and distrust to grudging acceptance and finally friendship and understanding: Baron's play feels as though it's been charted on graph paper. At this point Mr. Green will teach Ross some Yiddish; at that point Ross will teach Mr. Green that the struggle for gay rights mirrors the Jewish struggle; here they fight; there they hug and make up. Baron plays up the pathos in this 80-minute two-act with all the subtlety of a gorilla sending semaphore messages.
And yet, as directed by B.J. Jones, Visiting Mr. Green works, thanks largely to performances by the stellar Mike Nussbaum as Mr. Green and the affable Guy Adkins as Ross: their professionalism and intelligence make even the predictable moments resonate. And whatever Baron's failings, he seems to understand that even a connect-the-dots picture will shine if great artists color it in. --Adam Langer