Bunce (Bill Camp) is a well-traveled merchant seaman who once jabbed a sail hook into his neck to feign a scurvy infection, and for years has nursed a gaping wound in his side. A souvenir from a coal mine brawl, the hole simply refuses to heal. He is accompanied by a fearless 12-year-old girl (Mischa Barton) who has crawled out from beneath the lifeless body of her father and fled a house of death. In her struggle to survive, the orphaned waif has become a cunning negotiator for scraps of food, and beneath the tattered surface the playwright uses the character as a kind of angel of mercy.
The unwitting hosts to the scavengers are Snelgrave (John De Vries), a grizzled, arrogant tyrant, and his wife, Darcy (Dianne Wiest), “all, that’s left of beauty in town,” whose body is scarred from a long-ago stable fire. The house is guarded by the worst sort of rabble, a man called Kabe (Paul Kandel), a lecherous scoundrel who would trade a piece of candy or a bit of fruit to nuzzle the foot of the little girl.
The play is a gloomy dance of death, a pretentious and potent offering of degeneracy. The poetic structure is surrealistic, with vivid descriptions of death and a turbulent storm at sea. The staging is stark, and the players valiantly attempt to get a grasp on their mysterious characters. Wiest is icy and regal as the old woman, De Vries cuts a crusty image as the miserly husband, and Barton, often lacking clarity, provides a chilling account of the last survivor.
Riccardo Hernandez’s set presents two stately chairs on the polished floors of a once-elegant drawing room, all that remains of former glory.