- Last Updated: 12:38 AM, June 6, 2012
- Posted: 10:40 PM, June 4, 2012
THE BAD GUYS
Second Stage Uptown, 2162 Broadway; 212-246-4422. Through June 17.
Some plays can stretch a tiny plot for hours. They finally grind to a halt, and you’re still wondering what the heck they were trying to say.
And then there’s Alena Smith’s “The Bad Guys”: At a mere 90 minutes, it has enough ideas and potential story lines to fill five plays.
This Second Stage Uptown production is too scattered, but it’s also often insightful, and far from boring.
Smith gives us an overabundance of riches. She easily could have focused just on the relationship between the laid-back Noah (James McMenamin) and his banker stepbrother, Fink (Michael Braun) — the two, in their early 30s, became members of the same family after their mothers fell in love.
The action’s set on the back porch of the family house upstate, complete with a barbecue grill and square of lawn. Guests, some more welcome than others, trickle by as Noah tries to leave to make a flight.
He’s moving to Los Angeles to present his debut movie, based on an old local murder involving Fink’s best friend, the dissolute golden boy Ash (unseen here). Enter Potential Play No. 2!
Hey, who’s knocking on the fence’s gate? It’s Jesse (Tobias Segal), the local drug dealer. Jesse starts off like your average gun-toting redneck — he calls Noah’s moms “members of the synchronized muff-diving team” — before confronting Fink, in surprisingly eloquent terms, about his dubious real estate tips.
Jesse and Fink’s class war could have been Potential Play No. 3.
Out of the blue materializes Noah’s old buddy, Whit (Roe Hartrampf), an Iraq vet who also ends up clashing with Jesse. Here’s to Potential Play No. 4.
The show ticks off one dude box after another: The guys smoke a joint, drink, prepare a barbecue, talk about going to a sweat lodge, play with guns and break into fisticuffs. Homophobia and latent homosexuality are triggered by the superfluous character of Paul (Raviv Ullman), a gay bartender and possible lead in Potential Play No. 5.
This sounds like a lot, and it is, but perceptive comments about male loyalty and betrayal do emerge. If there’s an umbrella theme here, it’s masculinity in crisis.
Parts of the show are contrived, such as Noah’s wishy-washy, inexplicable reluctance to leave for the airport. Even so, “The Bad Guys,” well-directed by Hal Brooks, holds our attention. And Smith hands the excellent cast some juicy lines marinated in testosterone.
“Kudos to you, playa,” Segal’s spot-on Jesse says after Whit mentions he’s dating Noah’s ex. “Hos before bros, man. That’s the way I live. Hos before everything.”
Actually, maybe the real theme here is that men will be boys.