The setup is rather pure in structure: an accountant (who may or may not be gay; he hasn't decided yet) brings home a hustler from a bar. The young man collapses on his sofa. When he wakes up, he alternately threatens and puts a move on the older man, who resists his ``sales pitch'' but offers him a somewhat Pygmalionesque relationship wherein he attempts to help the kid out of the gutter and into a more meaningful life. This he does with varying degrees of success throughout the play, while the kid keeps trying to draw him out of his sexual confusion.
Mauriello deserves credit for confronting head-on several ideas that cry out for dramatic exploration: our need to justify our acts to others, the desire to ennoble oneself through helping another, the contradictory flight from responsibility and meaning and their emotional cost, and the dark, desperate side to that ``Henry Higgins'' act. Unfortunately, he has his characters prattle on in a patently artificial manner, hurling ``truths'' at each other in a manner that never feels organically developed. (For instance, upon seeing the older man reading a Bible, the hustler asks, ``Find God in there?'') Mauriello is also given to heavy-handed metaphor, e.g. a wall left half-painted as a symbol of the character's indecision.
The needs to nurture and be nurtured, as well as their concomitant emotional pitfalls, were much more satisfyingly explored in Lyle Koessler's Orphans, which had the advantage of some brilliantly written dialogue seemingly beyond Mauriello's reach.
As the hustler, Russell Elder gave a very shallow reading, except for one electric moment where he was expressing hysterical fear. Joe Heffernan deserves credit for some solid work as the older man. He achieved the difficult task of actually seeming to grope for words that come to him haltingly, making them seem less scripted than they otherwise would.
Mark Harborth blocked the action uninventively. Leon T. Munier's set was nicely cozy, if a bit threadbare (reflecting as it did the owner's frugality). Richard Schaefer's moody lighting scheme did much to set an atmosphere less than well-served by the text and direction. Michael Bottari and Ronald Case's costumes were well chosen, especially the ugly sequin shirts worn by the young man.
Copyright 1996 John Michael Koroly
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