Ah, it's a wonderful world when you can go to the opening night of a world premiere play and leave ninety minutes later with a big, fat smile plastered all over your face.
That's what happened to me at Mosaic Theatre's presentation of Joe Calarco's A Measure of Cruelty.
Not that the subject of the play, bullying, is anything to smile at. The smile came from watching a well presented, well directed, and extraordinarily well acted piece of theatre.
Remember the Florida kids who poured alcohol all over a buddy and then lit him up? That the basis for A Measure of Cruelty and Joe Calarco has driven home all the horror of that act with a tight, almost poetic at times, one act that nails three generations of cruelty; mindless on the part of the kid who “flicked the Bic”, regimented in the wounded war veteran, and rationalized as just being a good parent in the case of the father of the veteran.
Andrew Wind is Derek, the teenager. He's found, hiding from the police, in a garbage filled dumpster behind Eddie's bar. Eddie is dead, his brother Buddy (Todd Allen Durkin) helps his father Teddy (Dennis Creaghan) run the place. Buddy hides Derek in the back room of the bar the day that Teddy lies in bed at home, sick with old man ailments.
Durkin gives us a bitter soldier, horrified at the acts he committed and witnessed, anguished at the loss of his wife, perhaps assuaging his guilt by sheltering Derek, whom he despises. He suffers from flashbacks, terrible grief and a capacity for violence he can barely control. Durkin's range, as Buddy, is mesmerizing from start to finish.
Wind drowns the stage in words, an endless outpouring of teen cool, and in so doing makes his glib chatter and street posing a wave that washes across the theatre. You can't remember the words, only the being swept away.
And Creaghan ties it all together with his quiet regret at growing old, the secrets, the failures, the misdeeds.
Calarco's characters are not nice people, but they are all the more interesting because of that.
The incidents he relates are not pleasant but they are there, in front of us, every day.
A Measure of Cruelty is well written, marred only by a feeling that perhaps there's a little too much going on. And that in itself reflects the truth of bullying.
Technical Director Douglas Grinn also designed the remarkable set: Eddie's Bar. And a large tip to the Property Master, Terry Lawrence. John Hall's lighting, Matt Corey's sound and K. Blair Brown's costumes were, as usual, top of the line.
Ultimately a sad piece, but you'll long remember the fine work by all three actors and the smooth direction of Richard Jay Simon.
A Measure of Cruelty runs through May 13 at Mosaic Theatre, 12200 West Broward Boulevard, Plantation. 954-577-8243 http://mosaictheatre.com/