review: the bad and the better

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The Bad and The Better

by Derek Ahonen
Directed by Daniel Aukin
Featuring a cast of thousands (actually 26)
The Amoralists at The Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 416 West 42nd Street
June 19, 2012 — July 21, 2012
production web site

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
June 18, 2012

  • “I don’t want chaos.  I just want fairness.”
  • “I loved her more than I can express. And I can express a lot.”
  • “I’ve got a job.  I can’t go underground.”
(L-R) Selene Beretta, Chris Wharton, Regina Blandon, Nick Lawson, Byron Anthony, David Nash, Anna Stromberg. Image by Monica Simoes.

A detective modeled after Sam Spade, a yearning secretary modeled after many who immediately seems to have a secret, a greedy industrialist everyone loves to hate, underground background subversive politics with and without an explicit agenda, displaced lives, sibling rivalries, a cop bar and an overly earnest revolutionary bookstore.  This is The Bad and the Better by The Amoralists.  Few plot reveals are truly a surprise; all the many characters have a chance to be slapped, deliver snappy dialogue, and more than a few have secret pasts. And I’ll resist a title punning game and say that while pruning would make the whole production feel less audience abusive, the tone achieved by playwright Derek Ahonen and director Daniel Aukin is consistent revolutionary noir, with several unsurprising twists.

The settings designed by Alfred Schatz are efficiently etched out of the small playing space at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater on west 42nd street,  Library/study/office upstage and part of stage right alongside a jukebox used just a few times (so few times as to make one wonder why it was part of the set at all), and a long fully stocked bar occupying the entire length of stage left where the majority (or perhaps just the most interesting) plot action takes place.

Plot points and monotonously proclaimed dialogue and declaimed revelations make for a thick slog after the first hour. These are charming and brave performers who entrance you onstage. This script is an outline for a fine noir spoof. As it stands, it is a draft that provides lots of action for loads of characters, gun play for many, dying scenes for even more, and wears thin as a one-note evening of theatre.

© Martha Wade Steketee (June 24, 2012)

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