The grimy back roads and dark byways of South Carolina are the setting for Jon Klein's richly human and funny play "T-Bone N Weasel," running at the Fell's Point Corner Theatre through Oct. 27.
Director Susan Kramer has shown a nice perception of life's unfortunate underdogs in this Baltimore premiere production, which is outstanding in both story and performance.
The play, first produced in 1986, was featured in the Actors' Theater of Louisville's Humana Festival of New American Plays in 1987.
Staged in the neat 65-seat theater in the renovated fire house at 251 S. Ann St. in Fells Point, this three-actor play works well in the intimate surroundings.
The play is further enhanced by original country music written and performed by David Ricketts on the guitar and Jon Grimes on guitar and harmonica.
In this comedy, with dramatic overtones, the emotional binding of the two petty crooks, T-Bone and Weasel, is reminiscent of the impoverished characters George and Lenny in John Steinbeck's moving tale, "Of Mice and Men." But that was the dark side of the coin; this is the light.
Heart-rending at times, this soulful work digs deep into the psyche of the two main characters -- T-Bone, cynical and hardened by the school of hard knocks, and Weasel, a childlike optimist trying to find the good in everything and everybody.
Presented as a series of vignettes with titles for each projected on the back curtain, the play takes the desperate duo on a series of hilarious misadventures as they steal a car and take off on the highway.
They bungle a store holdup, are swindled by an obnoxious car dealer, robbed by a crazy self-proclaimed preacher, exploited by a crooked politician and enslaved by a sex-starved creature of questionable gender.
They stick together through thick and thin. Racial prejudice emerges now and then. Accustomed to the ways of Southern white men, T-Bone takes it in stride but gentle Weasel is appalled.
The play often borders on the slapstick and, then, suddenly turns poignant. The laughs arise from the pair's frustrations to get enough money to eat and a decent place to sleep. T-Bone's way is thievery, but Weasel longs to go straight.
Both the unusual names get a lot of comic mileage.
The play could stand a much quicker pace and improved comedy timing, but the cast is excellent. As T-Bone, Paul Ellis gives us the character's tough, slightly paranoid exterior. But the vulnerability shines through. He dares to dream, too.
Joe Leatherman delights as a sensitive, sweet Weasel yearning for the "good life." Tom Nolte provides us with a variety of extremely amusing, exaggerated characters that reveals the actor's fine versatility.
Neil Simon's "Chapter Two" on stage at the Dundalk Community Theatre through Sunday shows the playwright's deft ability to present the absurd aspects of ordinary situations.
In the play (autobiographical in tone), a writer is grieving for his dead wife when he meets an enchanting young woman. They fall in love and marry but his guilt and refusal to let go of the past rocks the new love boat.
As directed by John Amato IV, the play is slow-moving and ponderous at times, lacking the necessary rhythm and proper delivery of the clever lines. Laura Gifford as the new wife, Mary Knauer as her wise-cracking friend and Leo Schneider as the writer's philandering brother all do well.
But Timothy Hogan in the pivotal role of the writer is miscast. The pace drops when Hogan has to carry the ball, making it difficult for snappy interaction between the characters. His performance is not up to the caliber of the rest of the actors and it spoils an otherwise good production.
The attractive, two-apartment set was designed by Marc W. Smith.