Soon they meet a menacing character with a gun who tells them that when he and his associate return in an hour, one of them will have had his penis cut off by his teammates. If they fail to agree on who is to receive this ``unkindest cut of all,'' they will all get the chop. This really gets the boys concentrating, and brings out disclosures about each of them that make up the focus of the play. Unfortunately, it does not bring out a convincing motive for their tormentors.
Why they are there, and what transpires -- well, you'll have to go and see this psychological thriller by Shepard out of Mamet. What you'll see is hardly entertainment, but you'll experience more discussion about penises than at 30 Freud conferences, not to mention rape, adultery, and the whole beauty and range of the English language from A-F. Mr. Dunn is a talented playwright with a real ear for such talk, but it would be interesting to see what he would do with a play that celebrates the higher reaches rather than the lower depths. Mr. Dunn has been playwright in residence at 13th Street Repertory for the past seven years, has had four plays published by Samuel French, has written three others, and has another on the way.
That having been said, the play, which ran for 90 minutes without intermission, held the attention throughout -- though it lacked the necessary building of tension, then the panic, as the minutes tick by toward the dreaded return of the man with the meat cleaver. The denial, bargaining, trading, and double-crossing that ensues, however, was moved along well by director Rivkin, who was well-served with a good ensemble. Paul Hiatt (Cooper) was suitably weird; Kavin M. Coleman (Jefferies) was smooth; Edward Kassar (Carter) was sympathetic as the gay man; Leo DiStefano (Venetti) was wonderfully gross; Peter Furst was strong as the weak WASP (Turley), and Paul Wells was a very scary Mallory. No music or sound were used in this show, although they would have added tension and a suitably menacing mood.
Set design (by the director), lighting (Gavin Smith), and costumes (uncredited) were serviceable.
Copyright 1997 Dudley Stone
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