In the first act, Isaac Geldhart (John Noble) goes head-to-head with his son Aaron (Carter Hudson) over matters regarding the family owned publishing house. Isaac, a Holocaust survivor, publishes high-brow literature for which there is no longer a market. His son Aaron, hoping to save the company from bankruptcy, wants to publish a pulp fiction novel that would appeal to the masses. A conflict ensues over which book to publish and Isaac tries to make his point by belittling and verbally abusing his children. Enraged, his two other children give Aaron their stock shares and Isaac becomes a persona non-grata with a minority stake in the company.
In the second act, Aaron is still vying for complete ownership of the publishing house. He hires a social worker to try to have his father declared incompetent. However, it turns out that the social worker and Isaac have a shared past despite her appearing to be half his age – a plot twist that is as ridiculous as it sounds. The second act made no sense to me at all.
The first act had the makings of an interesting play, but the seemingly unrelated storyline of the second act just fell apart. Although I didn’t like this play, it was not time wasted. Listening to John Noble’s voice, even if he was just reading the dictionary aloud, would always make me happy. LAR
Second Stage Theater – at the Tony Kiser Theater305 W. 43rd Street http://2st.com/shows/current-production/the-substance-of-fire
Discounts are available at http://www.broadwaybox.com/shows/substance-fire/
Runs through May 25, 2014