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In a Little Room

Two men meet and bond over their similar situations in a hospital waiting room in this dark comedy. It’s very well performed and written but drawn out.

Luis-Daniel Morales as Charlie, David Triacca as Guy, and Jeb Kreager as Manning in a scene from “In a Little Room” (Photo credit: Zachary Zerlin Photography)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

It’s 30 minutes before the actual plot of playwright Pete McElligott’s dark comedy In a Little Room is revealed. Before that, there’s been a lot of jokes, sight gags and slapstick without any real point. The play is well written and finely performed, but perhaps would have been more effective as a one-act rather than a short full-length work.

“I’ve been to the zoo,” is the jolting first line of Edward Albee’s historic one-act play, The Zoo Story. In a Little Room has similarities to it and could have benefited from such an opening salvo.

Charlie is in his early thirties and Manning is in his late thirties, and they’re in a shabby hospital waiting room. They’re sitting in silence, but after accidentally spilling coffee on a sleeping man there, they open up to each other. Each one has had a close relative die that day.

Mr. McElligott upends this slice of life premise into a Larry David-style shattering of conventional grieving. Interrupting the men’s confessionals are zany loudspeaker announcements à la M*A*S*H, a wacky doctor and a fire in the hospital.

The dialogue is rich, one-liners abound and there’s plenty of acute observations that are sidetracked by the hijinks. The characters are dramatically delineated, yielding strong roles for the actors.

Luis-Daniel Morales as Charlie and David Triacca as the Doctor in a scene from “In a Little Room” (Photo credit: Zachary Zerlin Photography)

With his breezy delivery, terrific comic timing and everyman persona, Jeb Kreager is highly engaging as Manning. The animated, wiry and bearded Luis-Daniel Morales is soulful and at times wildly funny as Charlie. Mr. Kreager and Mr. Morales have a marvelous chemistry together which energizes the play.

As several briefly appearing figures, David Triacca is dryly comic with his expressive facial features and intense speech patterns. Mr. Triacca’s sharp characterizations recall the work of Tim Conway on The Carol Burnett Show.

This is basically a two-men-in-a-room play and director Patrick Vassel’s staging skillfully comes up with a variety of lively ways of positioning the cast. The visual comedy is perfectly realized with bits involving looking for a magazine and spilling coffee.

The realistic hospital waiting room is authentically rendered by Zachary Zirlin’s meticulously detailed set. Katy Atwell’s lighting design is mostly a steady brightness with fiery bursts of red to symbolize the fire. All of the characters are expertly visualized by Evan Prizant’s artfully simple costume design.

Though laden with extraneous material that diminishes its impact, In a Little Room is at its core insightful and entertaining.

In a Little Room (through September 24, 2017)

Ten Bones Theatre Company

The Wild Project, 195 East 3rd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit http://www.tenbones.org

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission

Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (413 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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