Set at 3 a.m. in an abandoned subway john in New York City’s meat-packing district, “Sugar” follows two teenage half-brothers, Duke (Brian Vincent) and Boogie (Jon A. Abrahams), as they frantically plot a course to handle a drug rip-off gone bad. Small-time hustlers, the boys have gotten themselves in over their heads by violently stealing a brick of cocaine from their pimp — a man they have underestimated, to dire consequence.
The tense situation opens deep emotional wounds from a troubled past. Left on their own since their father’s apparent suicide, the boys have survived by their wits, or rather, Duke’s wits: Playing George to Boogie’s slow-witted Lennie, Duke is alternately loving, angry, saddened and ultimately guilt-ridden over his younger brother’s inability to fend for himself.
When Duke goes off to make amends with the pimp, Boogie is confronted by old Street (Michael Cambden Richards), a revoltingly unkempt homeless man whose sudden appearance is the only true surprise of the play. Unfortunately, it also triggers both Silberman’s and director Stroman’s worst inclinations: “Sugar’s” second act is loaded with pretentious psycho-melodrama exploring paternal relationships, sexual abuse and sins of the fathers visited upon the sons. Needless to say, all does not end well.
Essentially a one-act play stretched to two, “Sugar” does feature two lively performances from the talented Vincent and Abrahams as the brothers, although they too succumb to the play’s overwrought dramatics. Richards can do little to make a real person out of the wise/cruel father figure from hell. Only Edward T. Gianfrancesco’s set is perfect, to the last disgusting stain.