Eddie, who does not like to let anyone into his and Peanut’s peaceful, if not exactly happy, home, reluctantly agrees to let Ray sleep on the couch until he can get his own place. By way of helping him to do that, Eddie introduces Ray to Lolli, the neighborhood slut (and a twisted stand-in for “Streetcar’s” Mitch), who may be able to turn Ray on to someone who can give him a job. Eddie’s hurry to get Ray out is but one of many indications, some subtle, but most not, that he wants Peanut all to himself. The plot is clearly heading toward Eddie’s incestuous homoeroticism busting loose, which it finally does with tragic results.
But undercutting the impact of this tragedy is the rush toward an ending. While the events make dramatic logic, they do so perfunctorily. What must happen does (as befits a tragedy) but the action is completed in a burst of messy melodramatic violence instead of clean precision. The ending seems almost arbitrary.
The play also lacks resonance of language. This is kitchen sink realism and it cries out for some pearls of proletarian poetry, but not even the sensitive Peanut ever says anything that functions beyond the level of story-telling.
A good cast cannot be faulted for the play’s shortcomings. Andrew Miller is particularly effective as Peanut, nicely balancing the character’s tenderness and self-confidence. Mark Hutchinson is exuberant in the pivotal role of Ray, although it is sometimes hard to believe he comes from the upper-middle-class background attributed to the character. Tony Cucci is a strong Eddie and Carolyn Baeumler a subtle Lolli.
Director Dante Albertie seems to have been watching too much MTV, creating an unfortunate tendency on his part to pump up the volume on some turgid music to make sure we know the characters are experiencing some deep, dark emotions. He enlists his lighting designer Ken Moreland in the effort, calling for flashing lurid colors to further underscore the torment. Set designer Beowulf Boritt has created a believable apartment, but has gone out of his way to make the proscenium look as if it had been blasted by a wrecker’s ball. Probably intended to show that the fourth wall has been torn aside to expose these lives, the device is as unnecessary as the extra music and lights.