The title of Tony DiMurro’s new play 1-2-3 Manhunt is the name of an urban hide-and-seek game played by New York City street kids several generations ago. It is also the weighty metaphor for the characters of this play as it slips into a Grand Canyon of grief.
On a realistically shabby tenement rooftop in the Lower East Side of Manhattan—incredibly detailed design by Julie Melton DiMurro—Manhunt’s leading character, Alex, (Santo Fazio in a beautifully detailed performance) rants and spews drunken venom at the character-killing gentrification of his old neighborhood.
He is surprised by the sudden appearance of Alec, a Chinese-American teenager played movingly with a soon-to-be destroyed naiveté by Chris Paul Morales. This rooftop is his sanctuary from the discipline of religious school and his family’s thriving home goods store on the fringe of Chinatown.
The two at first clash then reach an uneasy détente fueled by some shared parochial school anecdotes. Despite Alex’s rampant racism—he keeps calling Alex “Chairman Mao”—Alec finds himself pouring his heart out, particularly about a Father Tizzio who cheered on members of the Holy Redeemer baseball team.
Alex was also on that team way back when and both remember Father Tiz’s famous, “Now remember, son, you and God are a majority,” with which he cheered the batters as they came to the plate. Inevitably they begin tossing Alec’s baseball around leading to Alex coming up with a scheme to make the neighborhood pay for its sins, a plan that, in the second act, causes much grief.
The next day, two of Alex’s old friends find him still on the roof. Millie (Ilene Kristen, perfect as a foul-mouthed, frowsy blonde) and Frankie (Anthony Barile, fine as a slightly calmer version of Alex) have been searching for runaway Alex on roof after roof to force him to go home to his wife.
This sets the stage for the dramatic high point of Manhunt, Alex’s seething tour de force outburst, a cascade of regret, recrimination and rage, interrupted by the reappearance of a train wreck Alec whose life is forever ruined.
DiMurro writes with an acute sense of the rhythm of New York speech and its old-school jargon, helped by director William Roudebush’s complementary sense of timing, not to mention four expert actors who know how to embody these characters.
Herrick Goldman’s atmospheric lighting and Andy Evan Cohen’s brilliant urban soundscape immeasurably added to the overall impact of 1-2-3 Manhunt.
1-2-3 Manhunt (through October 24, 2021)
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-254-1109 or visit http://www.123manhunt.com
Running time: 90 minutes including one intermission