Preeming as a visiting production at East West Players’ David Henry Hwang Theater, “The Best Man” can be likened to a misconceived fusion of Edward Albee’s “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child.” Scripter-thesp Weiko Lin’s effort to scrutinize the dysfunctional history of adult siblings Danny (Lin) and Mitch (Leonard Wu) — on the eve of Mitch’s marriage to Danny’s former wife, Julia (Lisa Faiman) — flails chaotically from scene to scene, substituting clumsy, illogical exposition for a viable dramatic throughline.
Set in an upscale Manhattan hotel suite (impressively realized by Haibo Yu), the opening scene aims to establish the fractious fraternal relationship as slovenly, loser-in-life Danny offers whiskey and jibes to loosen up immaculately attired but emotionally inhibited Mitch, who has requested his older brother to be best man at the impending nuptials. Handicapped by leaden, arbitrary dialogue and a relentlessly unfocused perf by Wu, helmer Kevin Lau fails to establish a conversational rhythm or rapport between these two men who have supposedly known each other all their lives.
The action becomes livelier but even less viable with the arrival of Danny’s sensual, hyper-vivacious 18-year-old girlfriend, Misty (Cathy Shim), and Mitch’s monumentally controlling 30-year-old fiancee. Within the ensuing rounds of free-flowing booze and cruelly barbed gamesmanship, myriad past follies and tragedies are revealed, but almost no believable human interaction occurs. The eventual revelation that, during their marriage, Julia and Danny’s infant daughter disappeared while under Danny’s care at a shopping mall, is just another historical moment tossed onto this legiter’s heaping fact pile of gothic doings.
Helmer Lau allows this foursome to wallow within their own bad intentions without regard to pacing or connection. Lin’s Danny seldom varies from his state of incorrigible inebriation, whether he is explaining how he pimps out Misty to earn a living or is being confronted with the dubious details of his own birth and the death of his mother. Wu’s opening scene inhibitions spiral downward into unwavering adolescent petulance as Mitch inevitably comes up lacking in every encounter.
Faiman fails to instill veracity into Julia’s shrike-like, domineering relationship with subservient Mitch or her inexplicable love for ne’er-do-well Danny. She redeems herself during Julia’s final scene descent into grief and rage when she is confronted with Danny’s grotesque capacity for evil.
Shim’s perpetually undulating Misty actually rises above the material, offering a memorable portrait of a rampant party animal who is nonetheless rooted in her own sense of truth and purpose.