The lack of anything new or surprising is the biggest surprise in Adam T. Perkins’s play That Men Do. The author’s note mentions deifying violence, exploitation, poisoning innocence, tainted ideals, and the unbalanced world, and the play’s set-up, according to promotional material, is "Two saints, a martyr, and the Devil in a pub." That’s quite a full plate, but as characters get introduced and the situation is revealed, there's little seasoning and less substance.
So in that pub are Mike (Justin Levine), a tough cop, and John (Ben Curtis), a tough young fireman. We know they’re tough because Mike has nasty words about a case where a kid killed his parents and then pleads extenuating circumstances, and John beats up a kid who lit a fire in his family’s apartment. Well, anyway, these guys -- rude, hot-tempered, politically incorrect -- are meant to be the saints. A new guy comes into the bar, carrying a rifle, and greeted like a returning hero -- that’s Chris (Michael Lowry). Well, the symbolism’s getting a little heavy now, but it all comes crashing down when Devin (Joseph Brooke), dressed in a black suit, black shirt, and red tie comes in. (Why not just call him Mr. Scratch?)
Dreams and desires are revealed, and fights take place, with Chris acting as peacemaker. Devin takes a call from someone (gee, who could it be?) who says he wants Joe the bartender (Sean Jarrell) back (not a hard job figuring that one out after he talks about the changes of fortune he’s been through). But all this symbolism isn’t really enough, so playwright Perkins takes several tangents, none of which give the play any more significance. The story John tells -- about when he was having sex with his girlfriend and one of her fingers found one of his openings -- is surprisingly undramatic, and the point is, well, is what exactly? Chris takes a call from his friend Gabe (again not hard to figure out, even if they don’t discuss trumpets), who is angry because it seems he’s a myth. (Per the program, the play is set "on the night St. Christopher is defrocked by the 'Divine Wisdom' of the Catholic Church.")
There’s plenty of raw material here, and clearly lots of anger. Director Perkins somehow made it seem like each disappointing scene would be followed by something more interesting, but playwright Perkins continually let him down. The actors did what they could, but uninteresting characters and events stubbornly remained uninteresting. If the whole point was to have Devin gloat at the end "Don’t they know they can never get rid of me? They need me!" then someone should have a long talk with the patron saint of playwrights, if he (she?) hasn’t been decommissioned yet.
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Copyright 2004 David Mackler