Friday, April 26, 2013

The Drawer Boy

At the beginning of Michael Healey’s play, The Drawer Boy, a young actor/director named Miles (Alex Fast) shows up uninvited at the door of a farmhouse, hoping to carry out research on farming for a play he wants to write. The farmhouse is inhabited by two middle-aged men, the slow and halting Angus (the superb William Laney) and the bright and articulate Morgan (Brad Fryman).

Alex Fast, William Laney, Brad Fryman
Photo: Alexander Dinelaris
Little by little we learn that Morgan has been caring for Angus since the latter suffered a brain injury in World War II. Angus is not able to create new memories, so he lives in an eternal present. When the play begins, in 1972, the two men have lived on this farm in the middle of nowhere for three decades. It seems likely that each of the thousands of days they have spent together was much like the others.

Miles is fascinated by Angus, and starts questioning and even challenging him, soon throwing off the largely serene and changeless cycle of days that has constituted Angus and Miles' lives and causing the layers of their assumptions and stories to rupture and peel away.

This three-hander is well-written and entertaining. It doesn't reach brilliance, but solid, involving, insightful excellence is nothing to sneeze at; I certainly found it superior to Orphans (also a three-hander), which is currently running on Broadway. What keeps The Drawer Boy from reaching its potential is the unevenness of the acting. Brad Fryman is quite good, and Alex Fast is not bad, but neither equals William Laney in subtlety, complexity, and that extra undefinable something that raises a performance to the highest levels. Director Alexander Dinelaris keeps the evening moving along nicely, but it's hard not to wonder what might have been.

Ultimately, however, it seems churlish to complain about an evening in the theatre this satisfying.  The Drawer Boy has much to offer, and its B-plus level puts it well above many other dramas of this past season.

(third row center; press ticket)

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