The world-premiere production of D.B. Levin’s “One Step Over” receives a spirited production by Theater East, but the play is an uneven retread of “Glengarry Glen Ross” with stock traders replacing salesmen. Levin can write (“Compassion is for people who don’t want to make money”), and there are moments of excellence throughout, but the work feels unfocused and at times overwritten. Director Alan Naggar could tighten up the pace a bit, not to mention the long and frequent set changes. The cast is first-rate, particularly Peter Haskell and George Svoronos, whose perfs blaze with ferocity, intelligence, and regret.
In a small stock trading office, Martin (Walter Novak) is the cock of the walk: brash, loud and successful. By-the-book trader Jerry (Svoronos) doesn’t like Martin’s methods or the man himself, but he has problems of his own, such as bosses who he thinks don’t properly appreciate him.
Veteran trader Kelley (Haskell) knows better than to be drawn in by Martin’s charisma, but seemingly sincere respect from the younger man and a chance to take part in Martin’s scheme to illegally garner millions blind him to reality.
Martin describes Kelley as “Lucifer fallen from grace,” and Haskell’s forceful portrayal lives up to that outsized reputation. In the beginning of the piece, he’s the ignored older man in the corner of the trader office; once things get tricky, he’s tougher and smarter than all the rest combined. Haskell brings layers of depth to the role, from a calm folksy gravitas to a viciousness that is scarier because it seems that Kelley is reveling in it. It’s a galvanizing piece of acting.
Svoronos is thoroughly convincing as the troubled Jerry, and his perf of a monologue about an accident that happens between the stock trader and his cancer-afflicted young daughter is emotionally harrowing and perfectly rendered: a play in exquisite miniature. Novak is compelling as Martin, and the reversal his character experiences at the play’s end feels chillingly accurate. Derek C. Burke and Hanley Valentin do fine work in smaller roles.
Joel Daavid’s set design is stark yet exact, comprising primarily of movable wall panels, and it configures believably as several apartments and the cluttered stock trader office. Daavid’s lighting is practical if not memorable. The sound and costume designs aren’t credited, but they’re both credible.