Tim McNeil has fashioned a fascinating character for himself in the persona of Russian immigrant Yevgeny, a low-level heroin dealer whose deep self-loathing has turned him into a specter of malevolence toward the life-defeated junkies who frequent his decrepit one-room Hollywood abode.

Tim McNeil has fashioned a fascinating character for himself in the persona of Russian immigrant Yevgeny, a low-level heroin dealer whose deep self-loathing has turned him into a specter of malevolence toward the life-defeated junkies who frequent his decrepit one-room Hollywood abode. Helmer David Fofi guides a committed ensemble through the complicated mire of McNeil’s uneven but dramatically powerful treatise on death and redemption as Yevgeny struggles to maintain his warped equilibrium amid the immediate physical needs of his clients and the reality that the love of his life is dying.

Within the daily machinations of the walking dead of Yevgeny’s seedy world, McNeil has structured two poignant yet harrowing love stories: Yevgeny’s cruel, raging sorrow at the impending death of his cancer-stricken longtime lover, Guatemalan refugee Amina (Denise Blasor); and the life-clinging flailing of two youthful addicts, Edward (Sean Thomas) and Blossom (Kate Ascott-Evans). The helmer’s premise that Amina’s deathbed maneuverings can actually save the lives of these three is dramatically flimsy, but made viable by the wrenching veracity of the performances.

McNeil inhabits the mercurial, contradictory soul of Yevgeny, a bear-like wounded beast who coos softly at his bedridden soul mate while lovingly feeding her soup and then cold-bloodedly refuses to give her morphine unless she gives in to his demands. He displays a transcendent intellect and sense of aesthetics while coolly dispatching Stanford grad junky Edward at chess, yet dissolves into uncontrollable physical rage, nearly crushing the young man’s skull when crossed.

Fofi pointedly highlights the depths of Yevgeny’s depravity by staging the drug dealer’s vicious sex-for-drugs ravaging of Blossom with his broad back to the audience but in full view of a despairing Amina. This heinous act of inhumanity is made all the more despairing by the hauntingly innocent and fragile perf of Ascott-Evans.

Thomas’ Edward also conveys the resignation of a lost child who has given up hope of rescue. Thomas is painfully endearing when he finally allows a desperately needy Blossom to be a part of his life.

Blasor’s Amina exudes a fierce moral strength amid the human carnage that surrounds her. It is her unwavering belief in the basic goodness of the human soul that makes viable the resurrection of three beings who had condemned themselves to death.

Brief but noteworthy perfs are also turned in by Maria Forero as Amina’s hyper-religious friend Theresa, Andres Londono’s sensitive portrayal of Amana’s long-dead son Francisco and Turen Robinson’s spot-on outing as fast-talking male prostitute Gary.

Production designs do much to enhance McNeil’s vision of the human need to find any means possible for survival.

Los Muertos

Elephant Theater; 55 seats; $20 top

Production

Elephant Stageworks/Elephant Theater Company present a play in two acts by Tim McNeil, directed by David Fofi.

Creative

Sets, Fofi, Seth Chandler; lights, Maura McGuiness; sound, Chris Game; costumes, Danielle Bray. Opened Oct. 28, 2005; reviewed Nov. 4; runs through Dec. 4. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast

Yevgeny - Tim McNeil Amina - Denise Blasor Edward - Sean Thomas Blossom - Kate Ascott-Evans Theresa - Maria Forero Francisco - Andres Londono Gary - Turen Robinson
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