Meanwhile, bald, heavily bearded Jack, dressed like a pseudo-biker (thank you, costumer Lux Haac) paces his mausoleum like office (thank you, designer David Harwell) with a jaunty, syphilitic stagger and rants. Violently. He terrifies his newbie secretary, Jessica (marvelous Sarah Lemp) into imbelicity with his vituperative orders. When his former lover – also former secretary, now a slithering agent — (outstanding Anna Stromberg) forces her way into this, his sacred space, he not only verbally abuses her, he sexually abuses her, just as she intended and knew he would. Now she can ask him to see her “cousin” Clinton, a wounded G.I. would-be writer, looking for a job. She leaves, triumphant. Not triumphant in his departure but craven, bent over, terrified, presenting his ample rump for abuse, is his lawyer manager Stanley (spot-on David Lanson) who bears further bad news about their dilemma producing star who won’t play ball. Enter the wounded “cousin” Clinton, (arresting Matthew Pilieci), crab-wise, unbidden, his gleaming metal hook instead of a hand, shining, a smiling bundle of suppressed rage.
He has the craven lawyer Stanley move about humiliatingly bent over, works the writer-job seeker Clinton into lobster-like crouches and flailings, stages raging producer Jack’s staggering, fist-waving pacings, all to underline the excoriating mouthings blasted about when it’s all the last thing the play needs, as he must surely know. His audience has to care about someone or something. And when your playwright finds it cathartically necessary to rebel, it is still the job of the director to bring his audience and his play together. Portraying a sick society to a sick society is tricky, to say the least. We are repelled. And when the shock of actual, sick violence occurs, rather than admiring the lesson therein, we are doubly repelled.
As for our vicious cycles, while Roberts knows how to shock, author Derek Ahonen, in the other play (The Qualification of Douglas Evans), beats him pants down. Roberts acts up a self-satisfied storm. Ahonen’s voluminous indulgences are sloppy in comparison. Both writers revel in showing off loathsome characters. Roberts, nevertheless, has written the beginnings of a play. Ahonen has swamped his play in unnecessary reiterations.
Enter at Forest Lawn (performed in rotating repertory through August 9, 2014)
Walkerspace, 46 Walker Street, between Broadway and Church Street, in Manhattan
For tickets and information, visit http://www.TheAmoralists.com
Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission