eith Glover’s sometimes amusing, sometimes pretentious “In Walks Ed” is an urban comic-strip written to a bebop beat. First presented at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s intimate second stage early this year and now spreading itself rather thinly over the Long Wharf Theater’s Mainstage, the play does not display sufficient reason as to why it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Has this “tale of the chocolate city” lost something between Cincinnati and New Haven?
Set in a Harlem basement bar “circa nineteen-now,” Glover’s “essence of soul in a late night mode” presents the return of hit man Eddie Paladin (Keith Randolph Smith) to Harlem. He wants to make amends (with a $ 1 million gift) to Darlene (Kim Brockington), the woman he abandoned and who has since married and become a housing cop.
Since Ed is silly enough to wander into the bar carrying the million bucks in a briefcase, it’s no wonder he’s soon in deep trouble, beaten up, tied to a chair, his money stolen by fellow hit man Bennie “The Jet” (Leland Gantt). There seems to be a contract out on everyone’s life in “In Walks Ed.”
Before the play comes to its inevitable romantic end, there’s a choreographed fight and a Western-style shootout, all in a highly stylized production that clearly has afforded its designers great fun. David Gallo has designed a smoky bar that takes over the entire theater, including tree roots growing through gratings in the ceiling, a staircase descending from the sidewalk above, and enough space to house a Filene’s Basement. The play is too small for the set, which should be tacky and claustrophobic.
Michael Alan Stein’s costumes are sharp in their neon glory, and Kevin Adams’ lighting is wildly kaleidoscopic. Even with nonstop latenight jazz and blues, sexy and frantic dancing, bullets shattering bottles, and some good writing, the play doesn’t add up to much, suggesting a one-act stretched with purple patches of poetry, silent characters moving in slow motion and a portentous prologue.
The most endearing performance is given by the antic actor playing what is, in effect, the comic-relief role. He’s Joe Quintero portraying a young, none-too-bright Latino man whose one aim in life is to open a bodega. He’s both amusing and real. Would that the whole of “In Walks Ed” followed suit.