by Richard Hinojosa · March 30, 2015
Peter Welch, Robert Homeyer and Joe Pantoliano | Rosalie Baijer
Value is a very subjective thing. As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Playwright Tom Diriwachter cleverly applies this idea to his characters’ lives in his new play Great Kills with mixed results.
The play opens on a tired old man watching his favorite baseball team and drinking his favorite beer while reclining in his favorite lounge chair. His life has become a stagnant pool of routine after the death of his wife. His deadbeat son, Tim, lives with him and he is constantly nagging his father about one thing or another. Tim’s life had some potential – he was an adjunct professor teaching a course in the modern novel but now he works in a bookstore and can barely support himself. Tim has invited his childhood friend Robert over to discuss a business proposition that has to do with collecting old cabinets that have been thrown out at his father’s workplace and reselling them. Robert has had a good deal of success in his life. He owns a profitable restaurant and Tim knows he has the cash to help him with his get rich scheme. Their business talk quickly turns from wheeling and dealing to delving into their past and this is where Diriwachter offers us the emotional core of his play.
Great Kills is at its best when its characters drop their façades of sympathy and turn to brutal honesty. Eventually, they are forced to face the truth about themselves resulting in quite a bit of emotional impact. Diriwachter does a wonderful job developing some very complex characters with issues that are deeply rooted in their hearts. Failed relationships and careers become tender exposed wounds on which Diriwachter pours salt. I enjoyed the parallel of recovering junk to turn a profit with the idea of rescuing a failed life with a ridiculous scheme; however the story builds to an unsatisfying ending. The play is essentially all talk and no action and segments of the dialogue come across as a little unnatural. There are, however, several laugh-out-loud funny moments that, along with the emotional core, salvage the play. Director Jonathan Weber leads a strong cast of three and manages to shed an even tone on this group of actors.
Peter Welch plays the successful business owner Robert with a good mix of class and smugness. He potently delivers some of the play’s most powerful belly punches. Robert Homeyer’s Tim is a quixotic and bellyaching man that drives the play’s heartbreaking meltdown. However, it is Joe Pantoliano who really steals the show. In the smallest role, he becomes the hub of comic relief as well as center of emotion. His monologue toward the play’s end is tender and stirring. He does a lot with very little and that is certainly a testament to his skill as an actor.
Great Kills is definitely worth a look, if anything to see Pantoliano work his magic in an intimate setting. The play may be idle but it has its moments of impact and comedy that merit a trip to the hip Theatre for the New City.