Orphans By Lyle Kessler
Directed by Marco DiGeorge
Theater on the Edge
If there’s one thing this place needs, it’s a light up sign you can see from the street. What it’s good at is stage intensity, and the ability to get wallpaper to look like cockroaches put it up in 1978. Meet gentle Phillip (Adam Minossora) who misses his dead mom and lives under the thumb of his violent brother Treat (Zack Roundy). Treat won’t teach him to read or let him out of the house; Treat is the worst kind of control freak. Treat does support him with picking pockets and other minor crimes but one night he brings home drunk-as-a-skunk Harold (Allan Whitehead). Notionally, he’s a “Businessman”, but that business seems to be securities theft. (Back in the old days, stocks and bonds were all physical and if you stole the certificate, it was hard to trace. Now everything is electronic). Treat threatens to kill Harold, but Harold hires him as a bodyguard, and puts some sense into Phillip. But Treat has anger issues as well as a cheap streak. Instead of taking a cab like Harold said, he takes a bus and nearly gets into a shootout with a rude bus rider. Things are grim in the house, and when Harold takes Phillip for a walk his past catches up to him. Treat may be a lost cause, but Phillip might finish all the great American novels someday.
There’s a theme here; every TotE show has focused on intense male relations and desperate people pushed to that selfsame edge. Mr. Roundy can scare the pants of you, and sitting in the back row is scant safety in this tight space. Mr. Minossora remains gentle and eager to please; he’s a classic hostage with no way to send a message to the neighbors and ask for help even though he’s in a cramped row house with walls made of spiderwebs. But the real scare Machine is Mr. Whitehead. He may be jovial and generous, but those with access to the securities market are the ones who can do the real damage, and they don’t even have to get close to you.
As always, there’s an amazing degree of verisimilitude here. The set is reportedly built to the actual 1949 building code, there’s a real radiator, and at the very beginning as Phillip kneels before the television it reminded me of a 1980’s video. It’s an intense evening, and one you’ll remember.