×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fresh Kills

There's a potent enough situation but not much of a play in "Fresh Kills," the new Royal Court offering that, title notwithstanding, seems almost completely stale. American scribe Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder's title may puzzle Brit spectators not exactly accustomed to references to Staten Island landfills. But this scenario has been written time and again and will continue to be so, long after this thinly sliced slab of melodrama has been hauled off for recycling.

With:
Eddie - Phil Daniels Marie - Nicola Walker Nick - John Sharian Arnold - Matt Smith

There’s a potent enough situation but not much of a play in “Fresh Kills,” the new Royal Court offering that, title notwithstanding, seems almost completely stale. American scribe Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s title may puzzle Brit spectators not exactly accustomed to references to Staten Island landfills. But this scenario has been written time and again and will continue to be so, long after this thinly sliced slab of melodrama has been hauled off for recycling.

Things might have been better, admittedly, in a more nuanced production, where one wasn’t so aware of a British cast attuning itself to the American accent. But at a time when such issues scarcely pose the problems they once did, a decent cast makes fatally heavy weather of the tough-talking America-speak, working-class style — Phil Daniels’ Eddie, the play’s catalytic part, sounding particularly phony.

Daniels plays a blue-collar odd-job worker in his 30s who has recently begun sneaking away from wife Marie (Nicola Walker) and their young child for some hanky-panky with the ostensibly streetwise 16-year-old Arnold (Matt Smith, marking his professional debut), whom Eddie has met online. That Eddie gives both genders equal sexual time is clear from the first scene, in which, the stage directions delightfully inform us, “Eddie is on the brink of a mind-blowing orgasm.” (This may be an incipient Court theme: The studio Theater Upstairs’ next offering is “A Girl in a Car With a Man.”)

Marie doesn’t know of her husband’s indiscretions — at least at first — and responds generously to Arnold when he starts showing up at the family home, eager to be taken to scout camp (though how he gleaned Eddie’s address is never made clear).

Completing a quartet heading for a shock or two is Eddie’s brother-in-law, Nick (John Sharian, late of Rebecca Gilman’s “The Sweetest Swing in Baseball” at this venue), a rough-and-tumble cop who likes Eddie well enough but knows filial devotion, after all, comes first.

Complications ensue when Arnold’s apparent stalker tendencies intersect with Eddie’s unquenchable gay lust, however covert and complicated that may be. Cue precisely the kind of violent ending one might infer from the title, after which the play doesn’t so much come to a natural end as simply cut out.

One can see something of the appeal of Wilder’s world-view to a British proponent to new writing: She anatomizes class in a way American writers don’t necessarily. (The career-minded Marie, for instance, looks set to outpace her husband in life, leaving one in doubt about the future of their marriage well before Eddie’s peccadilloes come to the fore.) But for the most part, “Fresh Kills” seems predictable and flat, and it doesn’t help that the Court showcased a far superior example of a similarly themed play in Lucy Prebble’s “The Sugar Syndrome” just over a year ago.

Milam has made his U.K. career with high-octane work (“The Lieutenant of Inishmore”), which makes the low-level impact that much greater a surprise. For all its shock tactics, the play seems as clapped-out as the battered old pickup truck that fills most of designer Ultz’s set and that at least has the whiff of authenticity in a way the wayward accents rarely do.

Fresh Kills

Royal Court Jerwood Theater Upstairs, London; 85 Seats; £15 ($27.85) Top

Production: A Royal Court Theater presentation of a play in two acts by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder. Directed by Wilson Milam.

Creative: Sets and costumes, Ultz; lighting, Ultz, Trevor Wallace; sound, Scott Myers. Opened, reviewed Nov. 8, 2004. Running time: 1 HOUR, 45 MIN.

Cast: Eddie - Phil Daniels Marie - Nicola Walker Nick - John Sharian Arnold - Matt Smith

More Legit

  • The Play That Goes Wrong review

    BBC Orders Comedy Series Based on ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

    The BBC has greenlit “The Goes Wrong Show,” a new series based on Mischief Theatre’s popular “The Play That Goes Wrong” stage production about a troupe that puts on disastrous plays. The stage show has transferred from London’s West End to Broadway for a J.J. Abrams-produced version described by Variety as “a broad, silly and [...]

  • By the Way Meet Vera Stark

    Off Broadway Review: 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' by Lynn Nottage

    After writing two harrowing Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, “Sweat” and “Ruined,” Lynn Nottage is entitled to have a little fun. But while this revival of her new play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” walks and talks like a screwball comedy, it has a real brain in its head. Before we get too serious, let’s meet [...]

  • Merrily We Roll AlongRoundabout Theatre CompanyMERRILY

    Off Broadway Review: 'Merrily We Roll Along'

    Like the optimistic youths at the end — or is it the beginning? — of “Merrily We Roll Along,” creatives keep going back to this problematic Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical, re-imagining the show in the hope that the end results will be different this time around. They’re not. But disappointments are often off-set by new [...]

  • My Fair Lady Laura Benanti

    Listen: Laura Benanti on 'My Fair Lady' and the Secret to Her Melania Trump Impersonation

    Laura Benanti is now playing her dream role on Broadway. At the same time, the Tony winner (“Gypsy”) is also playing her toughest part ever. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “It’s the most demanding part I think I’ll probably play,” said Benanti, now appearing as Eliza Doolittle in Lincoln Center Theater’s well-received revival of [...]

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content