Port Au Prince-born scripter Yves Lola St. Vil has culled her Brooklyn upbringing, fashioning an unwieldy, but often compelling glimpse into the challenged lives of locals whose main refuge is their neighborhood diner. St. Vil displays a laudable talent for characterization, but her penchant for waxing poetic within the flow of dialogue proves a disservice to her thematic throughline. It is further undermined by helmer L. Flint Esquerra’s unfocused staging. Yet, despite a few opening weekend flubs, a committed 10-member ensemble manages to instill a zesty vitality and humor into the proceedings.
Set over two weeks in the late 1990s, “The Bones of Lesser Men” chronicles the ebb and flow of regulars frequenting Elly’s Place (effectively wrought by Paul Koslo and Alanna Payton) just prior to a gubernatorial election that a black man might win. The colorful menagerie of losers is called upon to disgorge his or her philosophy of life.
The women are the more clearly delineated. Staci Ashley inhabits cafe owner Elly, a competent, intelligent woman who has been rendered inert by loneliness since her husband left her. Randa Walker pours herself into Summer, the neighborhood beauty who happens to be the mistress and punching bag of the man who might become governor. Lynne Conner is endearing as the ever-soothing mother earth figure Gloria. The three manage to avoid the clunkiness of soliloquy as each woman reveals the sorrows and demons that inflict their souls.
Men are certainly testosterone-driven, but their motivations are less defined. A highlight is the performance of stage and TV vet Carl Crudup as Free, an aged nowhere man who has only his gift for irreverent tall tales to sustain his sense of self-worth. Also noteworthy is Freedom, who turns in a textured perf as Junior, an embittered working stiff who would rather hang out at Elly’s Place, occasionally hitting on Summer, rather than going home to his wife, whom he clearly loves, yet is constantly castigating in absentia. More information on these men would be useful to appreciate the journey that has brought them to this place and time.