Presented by Revelation Theater in association with Eileen T'Kaye, casting by Hopkins, Smith & Barden, at The Women's Project Theater, 424 W. 55 St., NYC, Nov. 12-Jan. 12.
The word "almost" comes to mind a lot in trying to pinpoint what is missing from "Temporary Help," the inaugural offering from the new Revelation Theater. The acting is excellent, but the plot and characterizations aren't quite in sync. When the plot moves forward, the characters often become archetypes. When the characters are believable—whether interacting or during monologues—the action often stagnates.
Robert Cuccioli and Margaret Colin play a rural Nebraska version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"—think Edward Albee meets Sam Shepard. Karl and Faye Streber's disturbed marriage—with its combination of love (or at least attachment), control games, verbal abuse, resentment, and entrapment—is the element of the play that rings truest.
A drifter (Chad Allen) from San Francisco with the exotic name of Vincent Castelnuovo-Tedesco is passing through. He becomes one of many, we learn, who have been hired as farm help only to become participants in the Strebers' version of "get the guest." Vincent is almost believable. At times, the character is vivid; at other times, he makes behavioral leaps that are hard to buy. One cannot help but wonder why the emphasis on his name and big-city origin. He seems the type of drifter the Strebers' rural America produces. The only difference is his choice of weapons—a knife and a car bomb, as opposed to the shotgun the Strebers favor.
The town sheriff (William Prael), partial to Faye, drifts in and out of this tense household. He clearly represents the outside world, and the fact that there are no secrets in this world—someone eventually always catches on.
There are powerful moments, and there are others that just miss. Director Leslie L. Smith keeps the action moving on Troy Hourie's realistically homey set. David Wiltse's script is close, but needs tightening up and reworking. The potential for something strong is there.