A familiar barroom drama turns into an in-depth exploration of the thirtysomething singles-scene psyche in the world premiere of Kelly McAllister’s three-hander “Some Unfortunate Hour.” Building on his previous successes (including 2002 FringeNYC prize winner “Last Call”), the scribe’s dialogue rings true as head case Tom, seductive charmer Charity and quick-witted barkeep Janus at first dance around and then fully engage their unbottled emotions.
Direct from signing divorce papers at the courthouse, Tom (Dan O’Neill) and his irrepressible alter ego “Mad Tom O’Bedlam” seek refuge in the libations and sympathetic banter offered at Janus’ run-down, intimate watering hole. O’Neill does yeoman’s work with McAllister’s lengthy, dense rants on love, betrayal and the male animal, unshelling the nut of Tom’s peculiar madness.
Helmer Martin McGovern and lighting designer Mariah Becerra frame Tom’s id-driven outbursts of confessional and poetic fireworks with pointed mood changes, highlighting his seething emotional broth.
O’Neill’s feel for the material comes through in his conviction battling Tom’s demons, which include his ex (“the one whose name cannot be spoken”) and his degrading, fixed notion of masculine behavior. Perf is topped off by O’Neill standing on a chair, threatening to disrobe, while reciting the famous 17th-century poem (“Mad Tom O’Bedlam”) about the crazed, naked beggars so common along Elizabethan roadsides.
Overhearing Tom’s opening lamentation on the three great Christian virtues, an auburn-haired siren in a slinky red dress (Elgin Kelley) tells him her name is Charity and offers the poor man her attentions. Kelley paints a guileless, no-nonsense picture of Charity, her earnest efforts all the more heart-wrenching in the face of Tom’s ineptitude. We sit helplessly as his nonstop ego derails Charity’s efforts to get him into the moment and the sack.
Karen Slack’s Janus is the secret ingredient in this incendiary cocktail, lulling us with the security of spotless glasses, smooth one-liners and a bottomless well as she lies in wait. When Tom finally exhausts Charity’s patience, Slack disarms us with Janus’ courageous monologue, laying bare her heart.
McAllister immediately follows with a twist that liberates “Some Unfortunate Hour” from the usual humdrum arcs of crying-in-my-beer memoirs, sending us home chewing on Tom’s cathartic decision to end his pattern of victimization and take control of his life.