Pessimism, a character observes in this 1995 drama from Austin Pendleton, is not something that can really be enjoyed in public. Which is why perhaps we seek it out so greedily at the theater, where it can be enjoyed at a safe remove.
There is also a mirth beneath the dark clouds of this story about an irascible man (Richard Cotovsky) who is dying of AIDS and his punk of a nephew (Rudy Galvan) who abruptly moves in. "Each minute you're here makes me happier that I'm dying," the old guy tells the kid. Cotovsky, who never met a straight-faced zinger he couldn't wrangle to the ground, was born to say these kinds of lines.
The heated put-downs and confessional yearnings build to a bizarre climax that has the pair considering an act of incest because they are in search of a connection, no matter how twisted. But the whole thing kind of falls apart once the nephew announces he has intentionally exposed himself to the AIDS virus only hours earlier so that his uncle might indulge in his preference for unprotected sex.
Psychosexual drama aside, there is real tension in this Mary-Arrchie production (from director Cody Estle). Each man is an emotionally stunted, self-sabotaging outcast, and it is only together in this dingy little apartment (a cozy book-lined abode from designer Andrew Hildner) that they can finally let their freak flags fly.
Through July 21 at Mary-Arrchie, 735 W. Sheridan Road; tickets are $25 at maryarrchie.com
Just two years ago, this agit-prop drama about terrible labor conditions in a modern-day slaughterhouse was produced by another theater company in town. One has to wonder why Prop Thtr felt this Naomi Wallace play, which has some pretty overt flaws, warranted yet another staging. This is the tough question every theater company has to ask itself when considering a revival; those that ignore the potential for audience fatigue do so at their peril.
Particularly when the script is as clumsy as this one. Deeply affective moments that take place on the kill floor are undercut by cartoon villainy and a weirdly ham-fisted supernatural element. To their credit, director Karen Fort and her cast make the most of the few honest, naturalistic exchanges that unfold as the workers stand at the assembly line — Kyra Morris, Stephanie Sullivan and a charismatic Mitch Salm — slicing away at the carcasses before them as if slicing through their very souls.
Through July 21 at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston Ave.; tickets are $20 at 773-539-7838 or propthtr.orgCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun