However, once you get past the essential parallel that both Joyce and Duggan are dealing with Dubliners who want to soar but are somehow held back from their flight of escape, you realize the two writers have nothing in common except their Irish heritage. And by play's end, one is extremely grateful that director Chris Henry gives this otherwise suffocating treatise extraordinary style and energy.
The tale centers on three friends who have known each other a very long time; but who would never be friends if they met today. What holds them together now is their shared history. One of them, Daragh (James Kautz) has devolved into a shoplifting, cynical user. Another, Danny (Anthony Rapp), is a sad, emotionally and sexually repressed man who lives more in his imagination than in the real world.
The lynchpin of their relationship is Delphine (Dee Roscioli), the most together of the three, but plagued by extremely bad taste in men. In the period between mid-December and New Years, their long-standing friendship is tested in a harrowing tale of deceit and betrayal, and flooded by a torrent of alcohol.
Oddly enough, although the play is definitely not a pretty story, it receives a rather pretty production, full of JoAnn Hunter's sexy, gymnastically physical, choreography performed by Heather Phillips and Curtis Howard, who play the "dream" versions of the play's three characters. There is also a good deal of visually engaging projections provided by David Bengali.
Henry's direction is consistently imaginative, vivid, and crisp. There is a scene, early in the play in which Rapp's character is singing with a microphone on a stand. At the end of the number, the bottom of the stand comes off to reveal a mop, after which the microphone stand is immediately put to use to clean the Dedalus Lounge. Now, that's fun.
The actors are all very well cast. Kautz knows his decadent character inside out and flaunts his dark, self-loathing like a badge of honor. Rapp, who struggles with his Irish accent, is otherwise heart-wrenchingly vulnerable. But the big surprise is Roscioli, who gives a startlingly real performance in a play that isn't half as good as she is; and that's hard to do.