The program for playwright Stephen Hunter’s On Edge announces that this world premiere production was “Collaboratively Directed by (the) cast.” That goes a ways toward explaining the wandering pace, the featureless blocking, the indiscriminate gestures, the missed entrances and the one-note performances in which vehemence and high volume attempt but fail to substitute for genuine high emotion.
Not that the most sensitive direction in the world is likely to have clarified the jumbled plot or made the romance novel characters and their irrational motivations any more credible.
Here’s the drill: Brothers Oscar and Marcus are (respectively) a scrambling, conniving con artist selling knockoff purses off a throw rug on a New York City sidewalk and a baseball superstar who plays for the Yankees and is about to hit his 600th home run. The brothers adamantly do not communicate. Haven’t for years. Their father deserted them but left them with matching rings to remember him by. Damn thoughtful of him.
Marcus was the jock prince of their high school, driving a Caddy and banging cheerleaders by the backseat full while bookish Oscar was president of the National Honor Society chapter, drove a crapped-out Pinto and dated an enigmatically smiling apprentice alcoholic named Lisa. Supposedly he’s headed for Harvard but doesn’t make it.
Ten years later, Oscar is living with but still not sleeping with Lisa while he supports her and her 10-year-old son. Guess who is actually the boy’s father? Guess who is also still sleeping with Lisa, though he calls her Mona. Get it? And guess who is injecting steroids and/or other performance enhancing drugs while lying about it to Yankees management, the fans and the media?
Does this drivel get more or less believable when Oscar catches Marcus and Mona/Lisa in their underwear, discovers the current cuckoldry and the boy’s true parentage, watches his brother shoot up and then outs all of it on talk radio? How believable is it when the now discredited baseball stud confesses that all through high school he envied Oscar?
Sidled up to the piffle above is a promising sub-plot in which obsessed baseball fan Jace, otherwise a likeable dude, allows his obsession with Marcus to supplant and ultimately destroy his relationship with the woman he genuinely loves. Carefully explored and explicated that would make a more fascinating play than the brothers plot.
Some genuinely able people are caught up and wasted in On Edge. Jeffrey K. Miller has a street-wise, attractively smart-alecky way with dialogue that crackles in Oscar’s early scenes but turns repetitive even before he gets swamped in the rising tide of pathos. Justin Adams rounds out Jace nicely, giving his obsession a wry comic undertow and an occasional reality check in which he realizes that he’s destructively over the edge but is unable to curb his mania. S. Elizabeth Carrol does good things with the little she has to work with as the woman who loves Jace but cuts him loose. Others in the cast are Josh Beshears (Marcus), Colleen Sketch (Mona/Lisa) and the self-directing playwright as the radio host. Grade: C-
— Tom McElfresh