Roger Clark and Rob Benson in In Your Image
Roger Clark and Rob Benson in In Your Image (© Anton Brookes)
Actor and playwright Rob Benson begins the world premiere production of his play In Your Image, at 59E59 Theaters, with a rather cringe-worthy performance, as his OCD-afflicted character Warren silently moves about the space, putting on an exaggerated show of being disgusted by the state of the room he enters -- a cluttered and claustrophobic apartment rendered by scenic designer Kacie Hultgren. Director Deborah Wolfson is partially to blame for this prolonged and ineffective sequence, and even when Warren finally commits to the action of cleaning up, it's not very convincingly undertaken.

Thankfully, Benson is not the only performer in the play, and more solid work is done by Roger Clark as Warren's older brother Chris, and John Michalski as the siblings' deadbeat dad, Graham. The first act is all about the brothers, who are reuniting for the first time in years following the death of their father, whose flat they're now in.

There's a lot of exposition that's unloaded in a short amount of time, as we learn more about the brothers' relationship as they share memories of their father who left them and their mother years ago. Unfortunately, huge chunks of the action feel forced. Particularly awkward is the conversation the brothers have that introduces the play's title into the dialogue as they discuss whether or not they're the product of their environments or if there is a genetic basis for their problems.

The second act flashes back to the recent past, as Chris' chance encounter with his father leads to a heart-to-heart between father and son that ends badly. Clark does a fine job with a monologue about a hedgehog that could easily come across as trite or maudlin, but here has a rather moving intensity. Michalski's unsentimental portrayal of Graham is also effective, and this latter half of the play is ultimately more satisfying than the first.