H. G. Brown's new heist tale centers on Eddie Hajazi, a charmer with a cruel streak who needs a crew to help him pull off a big maritime heist. Played with sleazy suavity by Robert Funaro (known to many as Eugene Pontecorvo on The Sopranos,) Eddie artfully appeals to the needs and the dreams of three local men. Mal (Robert Sheridan) is a former contraband runner gone straight, now trying to make a settled life for himself and his new wife, Bev (Vivienne Leheny), as a modest innkeeper. George (Gordon Silva) tends bar at Mal's place, and Harley (Jack Rodgerson) is a piano-playing dockworker down on his luck. Three women complicate the scheme: the hardworking, morally centered Bev; Harley's girl Alice (Kelli K. Barnett), an oversexed stripper with a heart of gold; and most of all, Bev's friend Joyce (Kate Udall), a sultry newspaper writer.
Even these colorful characters are almost upstaged, early on, by Joseph Spirito's spectacular set. Though Mal and Bev are slowly renovating the inn, the barroom where the action takes place is a character of its own. The stained wood sings with color and history, while the wall decor and the jukebox (stocked only with oldies) define a worn and comfortable sailors' haven. Luckily, Brown's snappy dialogue and director Stephen Sunderlin's brisk staging keep us focused on the action.
Act I's character introductions and set-up scenes boast a sprightly, slightly elevated dialogue that's reminiscent of Lanford Wilson's (think Hot L Baltimore,) but delivered by the cast in a way that sometimes crosses the line from animated into hammy. It feels to me as if director and cast are a bit hamstrung (no pun intended) by an inconsistency of tone. The script is part gangsters-and-molls (think Key Largo) and part late 20th century TV comedy-drama. One wishes it would go all the way in one direction or the other. This flaw prevents the play rising above clever entertainment to become higher art.