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Little Doc

Dan Klores' new play about a group of twentysomethings in the mid-1970s proves to be a wearying experience. logo
Joanne Tucker, Adam Driver, Billy Tangradi, Salvatore Inzerillo,
and Tobias Segal in Little Doc
(© Sandra Coudert)
The sex, drugs and rock-n-roll culture of the late 1960s proves to be no refuge for a group of late twentysomethings in the mid-1970s in Dan Klores' wearying new play Little Doc, running at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Neither Klores' cluttered writing and contrived storytelling, nor, director John Gould Rubin's almost casual staging abate theatergoers' frustration with the meandering if potentially interesting play.

Klores' characters, who grew up among petty hustlers in Brooklyn and still find themselves mired in the neighborhood of their birth, may have once had ideals, but Quaaludes, cocaine and heroin -- along with failed get rich schemes -- have dulled idealism and hope. It's small wonder, really. They've followed the examples of their elders when they've come to realize that their lives will never resemble the picture-perfect ones of nuclear families that they've grown up watching on TV. It's a bleak subject, which sadly feels recycled, rather than newly explored.

The action unfolds within the confines of a tiny Brooklyn bar and the apartment that's just above it, which David Rockwell places side by side in his understandably cramped yet detail-rich, scenic design. Upstairs, childhood friends Ric (Adam Driver), Lenny (Bill Tangradi), Peggy (Joanne Tucker) and Billy (Tobias Segal) are settling in for a night of getting blitzed on a variety of narcotics, while downstairs, bar-owner Manny (Dave Tawil) is setting in motion a plan to discover whether it's Ric or Lenny who has absconded with $50,000 in drug money.

Manny has called Angelo (Salvatore Inzerillo), who's just out of prison, and sends him upstairs to spy on the younger people. While Angelo's upstairs enjoying the drugs, snooping and wheedling, Manny's downstairs with Ric's dad, bookie Weasel (Steven Marcus), who suspects the worst of his son, whom he called "Little Doc" as a child because of an ever-present toy stethoscope around the boy's neck.

As the play shifts back and forth between the two spaces, recriminations about the past and present fly. Ric can't believe how Lenny's lost his political activist dreams and Lenny remains furious that his high school girlfriend and wife Peggy is sleeping with Ric, despite the fact that Lenny said at one point he would support her extramarital relationship. Angelo, as he bullies information out of his one-time friends, complains that Ric was the only one who visited him while he was incarcerated. Eventually, the squabbling gives way to revelations, not only about what became of the drugs and the money, but also about Ric's life after his time in the service and his true agenda with Peggy.

Thankfully, two performances do spark the piece from time to time. Driver combines a wonky intensity with natural intelligence and gentleness to interesting effect, and Tucker's work as Peggy brings an unexpected warmth and humor to the grim proceedings.

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