NEW YORK (Reuters) - British actors Hugh Dancy and Ben Whishaw have won praise for their turns playing troubled gay lovers in a New York production of a play that jumps back and forth from repressed 1950s London to 2008.
The pair portray two couples in the different eras who anguish over emotional isolation and gay identity in "The Pride," which opened off-Broadway in New York on Tuesday night after the drama received an acclaimed debut in London in 2008 with different actors.
Dancy, 34, who is married to American actress Claire Danes and starred in the 2009 film "Confessions of a Shopaholic", and Whishaw, 29, who played poet John Keats in the recent Jane Campion film "Bright Star," both received positive feedback from U.S. critics for their performances.
"The evening benefits immeasurably from the performances of its British leading men, Hugh Dancy and Ben Whishaw," said the Hollywood Reporter.
Showbiz newspaper Variety said Dancy's "ability to convey the longing beneath his harsh behavior is especially moving," while describing Whishaw's debut on the New York stage as "tremendous" and adding his film work "barely hints at the actor's riveting stage presence."
New York's Daily News said "Dancy is particularly good as the controlled 1950s Philip, who can't acknowledge his same-sex longings" and Whishaw was "a wonder to watch."
The New York Times was less enthusiastic, although mostly reserving polite criticism for the writing by the play's author, Alexi Kaye Campbell, than the performances.
"Mr. Dancy, who was excellent in the Broadway revival of "Journey's End' has two thankless roles," the review said, while Whishaw "exudes a compelling, contained nervous energy, but he suffers from his characters having to explain who and what they are."
Actor-turned playwright Campbell won several new writing awards in London last season for the drama that debuted at the Royal Court Theater.
(Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Jill Serjeant)