The Amoralists are presenting Derek Ahonen's new play, The Bad and the Better, now through July 21st at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater. The Bad and the Better is a detective noir about the Lang Brothers. They are New York cops whose careers have taken very divergent paths. In The Bad and the Better, their careers careen again.
The central villain of The Bad and the Better is real estate tycoon Richard Zorn (Clyde Baldo). As the play opens, he is forcing people out of their houses to make room for his new mall and condo complex. He plays every bit of a proto-typical bad guy, even having a political candidate (Eugene Moretti) on the take.
I would have been fine with a plot centering on this Bruce Ratner/”Dr. Evil” bad guy. He was given everything but a maniacal laugh and a fluffy cat. It was almost comedic. Nonetheless, the show was clouded by a bunch of plot lines and somewhat extraneous characters that two hours into the first act, you start to question their reason for being there.
You have an anarchist group fighting Zorn. They are led by two young revolutionary wannabes, Justice (James Kautz) and Charity (Selene Beretta). I think they were supposed to give you, the audience member, a Guy Faux feel. Nonetheless, with their brightly colored matching outfits and interpretive dance, I felt like they were characters that wandered out of an episode of the 1980s television show “Fame.”
You are then given aspiring revolutionary Faye (Anna Stromberg). In theory, her character is awesome. She is a strong opinionated woman with the strength to step away from the heard. Then, she falls in love and essentially becomes a soppy mess. There was a Matilda (Cassandra Paras), the young fiancé who runs the cop bar. She was by far the character and performance I enjoyed the most. However, when her man steps back into her life, she becomes a soppy mess. It seemed like, in this Ahonen play, free will for women is nice while it until their men are back in town…
Confused? I haven’t even gotten to the two brothers who are in theory the lead characters of the play. Detective Rick Lang (who is relegated to a sleepy post in Long Island after a questionable shooting), begins to dig into a string of sudden deaths that reek of foul play which begin to connect back to the business deals of Zorn. (Remember him?) His brother, Chuck (David Nash), is an undercover officer and rising star in the force. He poses as a playwright, Venus, to infiltrate the revolutionaries.
By the end, Ahonen ties all of these story lines in some way shape and form back to Zorn. There was some level of satisfaction but serious eye rolling on my part as well. The play ultimately is 30 to 40 minutes too long. It is set in the present but the neo-noir language, scenic and costume design, major tonal confusion is caused. Ahonen's dialogue leads to some comedic moments, but overall The Bad and the Better comes off as playing at being a Tracy Letts play and very much falls short.
For more information about The Bad and the Better, check out http://www.TheBadandtheBetter.com.