The Most Damaging Wound
nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
November 12, 2008
"We choose our friends by those who best understand our suffering," asserts Blair Singer in his very funny and touching new play The Most Damaging Wound. Singer's take on friendships and coming to grips with manhood offers nothing that is particularly new but it is so well written and performed that it's like watching one of your favorite movies that never fails to make you feel pleasantly nostalgic.
Singer admits in his dialogue that stories about college buddies coming back together never work out well, and this story is no exception—yet I could not help but enjoy watching it play out regardless. The plot is straightforward—five college buddies plan a reunion in which they intend on getting very drunk and then burning a box of memorabilia from their glory days. Kenny, the organizer of this guys' night out, has just become a father and he is terrified that he's not ready for the job ahead. His best friend Alan, a lobbyist for Big Bad Pharma, has been married with a kid for many years at this point. GG, who owns the still-under-construction restaurant they meet in, is an uptight, outcast type of guy. Dicky is the one that truly never grew up. He is loud and obnoxious in a lovable sort of way. His best friend was Bo, the rock star who had to get sober.
This night is designed to be a ritual of male bonding (lots of male bonding) and a rite of passage into manhood. They all, in one way or another, hold on to their glory days so this coming together is as much about reliving those days as letting go of them. Into the mix of this sausage party Singer throws a "hot chick" named Christine. She is there to meet with Alan and despite Kenny's protests Dicky insists that Christine stay and stay she does. Her presence jacks up the tension and makes for a much more interesting evening than just boys being boys. Still, her presence doesn't stop them from singing songs, drinking until they puke, and punching each other. In the end they say things that needed to be said for a long time and, released of these burdens, they can finally move on.
Singer's script may very well be just another clone in a genre that's done to death but I found his honesty and raw emotion very refreshing. His treatment of friendship is very well thought out and the relationships among the boys are marked by essential checks and balances. They support each other and knock sense into each other with equal veracity. Throughout the play he pulls them together with, for example, a sing along (What! Indigo Girls at a boy party? That was hard to swallow.) and then he tears them apart by revealing long held secrets and desires and this creates an atmosphere of exposed and vulnerable feelings. It is real roller coaster ride of emotion and elation. Along the way, Singer makes us laugh (and I laughed a lot) at their chest pounding and sexist attitudes.
Director Mark Armstrong does an amazing job staging this play in such a tiny playing area. His view of a boys' night out that turns into a rite of passage plays out perfectly. April Bartlett's set is simple and very effective at setting the scene.
The cast is outstanding! Their talent and effort make this play truly enjoyable. Honestly, without them the play may have struck me as more mundane. Ken Matthews plays Kenny from the heart. He sheds real tears and digs deep to find this character. Michael Szeles lends Alan the perfect emotional detachment and so does Bard Goodrich as Bo, that is until they both find their breaking points. Michael Solomon as GG plays the maturity of his character very well while Chris Thorn as Dicky does the complete opposite, both with very funny results. Finally, Megan McQuillan as Christine does an amazing job slowly breaking into this tightly knit group while still managing to be endearing and exposed.
The Most Damaging Wound is dramedy at its funny and touching best. It'll make you want to call old friends and catch up. I know I did.