Dan Klores has a voice that rings out in a crowd. But while he speaks the language of 1970s sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll with gritty eloquence in “Little Doc,” the scribe has yet to master a more basic rule of good drama: Just tell us what’s on your mind — and make it quick. Although the four friends we observe here getting high in a Brooklyn walkup are articulate to the point of glibness, it takes forever for one of them to reveal why he stiffed the gangster who bankrolls their drug deals. Worse, the Big Reveal is a big bust.
Working on Rattlestick’s intimate (i.e., cramped) stage, David Rockwell (“Hairspray,” “Legally Blonde”) does his best to visually clarify the two threads of this disjointed narrative.
The sliver of space at stage left is reserved for the Birdsnest, the neighborhood bar in Brighton Beach from which Manny (played with quiet authority by Dave Tawil) operates his various illegal enterprises and shoots the breeze with his best friend, Weasel (more bird dog than weasel in Steven Marcus’ high-strung perf), a small-time sports bookmaker.
The rest of the square footage is given over to the upstairs apartment that Ric (Adam Driver) shares with a couple of doper friends. The charismatic Ric may be Weasel’s son by blood, but he’s also Manny’s son in spirit, so both men are unnerved when it looks as if the kid intends to skip town owing Manny the $50,000 he fronted Ric for a drug deal.
Would Ric really betray the two fathers who think the sun rises and sets on this sullen, smirking smartass? And does he really intend to make his getaway with his best friend’s wife, Peggy? Peggy’s a prize, in Joanne Tucker’s perf, but is she really worth the betrayal?
These questions really matter in a play that is basically about the mysterious bonds of blood and friendship between men — even if these bonds have been forged in a criminal context. But it’s easy to lose track of both questions and answers in John Gould Rubin’s staging of the play, which re-creates a 1970s dopefest in such realistic detail that the deeper undercurrents of the adversarial relationships never surface.
It also doesn’t help that Driver’s Ric is too much of a power-tripper to acknowledge the emotional neediness that drives him to reject the love and approval he desperately craves. But it’s Klores who cooked up the lame excuses for Ric’s self-destructive anger and withheld the emotional showdown until the bitter end of this endless party.
For all the drugs ingested by the partygoers, no one’s having a good time at this bash.