Little Doc Overdoses on Itself 

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Little Doc
Written by Dan Klores
Directed by John Gould Rubin

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, according to the company's website (and in light of seasons past) "is committed to the development and production of innovative new plays," so why are they producing something so derivative, unambitious and utterly lifeless as Dan Klores's Little Doc (through July 18)? An obviously very talented and resourceful cast and crew struggle mightily, but there's no brining this little drug drama back from the brink. Klores may be best known as a documentary filmmaker concerned with intimate New York narratives, but the "doc" of his first full-length play's title is an old nickname given to Ric (Adam Driver) by his father Weasel (Steven Marcus), who hoped his 20-something son would be a doctor rather than a pusher. What pseudo-documentary realism there is here belongs mostly to David Rockwell's superb split level set—a dive bar in deep Brooklyn and the apartment above—and Clint Ramos's grungy 1975 costumes.

The blood, drugs and, in one of the few truly convincing moments, vomit spilt on these finely textured period details stem from some missing money that Ric and roommates Billy (Tobias Segal) and Lenny (Bill Tangradi) owe Manny (Dave Tawil), the proprietor of the downstairs bar and a local dealer. Weasel, the latter's lifelong underling, is quick to suggest that Lenny, the stereotypical hippie prone to reciting outdated countercultural platitudes, has been skimming some off the top. Or maybe Billy, who consumes more drugs than all the other hard-using characters combined over the evening during which the play is set, has snorted himself into a $50,000 hole. Manny dispatches Angelo (Salvatore Inzerillo), another neighborhood caricature, just out of jail, to beat the truth out of the trio. We know, because we're privy to certain unseen scenes and completely superfluous voice-over—but also because it seems inevitable from the moment missing money is mentioned—that Ric's planning to leave with the loot and Peggy (Joanne Tucker), Lenny's openly but not so happily married wife. Tucker gets one of the evening's few memorable passages, pantomiming Peggy's first blowjob for the rapt audience of stock male characters. Hardly empowering, this, um, tongue-in-cheek routine underlines the righteous masculinism of the rest of the play.

Klores occasionally seems to be channeling Sam Shepard, another investigator of American alpha males in crisis with a penchant for hard-boiled dialog, but without his knack for restraint or self-examination. Characters never stop talking, except to start shouting. They obstinately over-explain every thought, motive and action, making those 90 minutes feel much longer. It's hardly surprising then that the quietest, most purely physical performance comes off the best. Watching Segal's hilarious Billy ceaselessly consume various drugs, slink around the stage and curl up in its corners proves much more enjoyable than whatever belabored point is being over-articulated nearby. When he stops sniffing long enough to speak he makes it count, though nobody's buying his prescient idea for bottled water. Little else makes light of Little Doc's interminable self-seriousness, and by the merciless end you'll want to self-medicate as badly as Billy.

(photo credit: Sandra Coudert)

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