Jess (Seamus Dever), a seemingly nice young man, sits in prison for the senseless murder of his pregnant wife—a crime for which he cannot come up with a reason. Tonight, at the stroke of 10, justice will have been served, and he will be dead. Set in the Midwest sometime in the late 1950s, this dark scenario, which sharply brings into focus the death penalty, comes from one of theatre's most prolific playwrights, William Inge, and is a sharp departure from his usual work. This rarely staged play is aptly titled. As written, the piece doesn't advocate for either side of the issue.
Jess shares Death Row with two other men. There's Archie (Christian Arroyo), a blatant, dislikeable, psychotic, and annoying queen. Arroyo plays him just that way but sadly pretty much on one annoying note. The actor tries and almost finds other levels, but he hasn't quite gotten there yet. The other row mate is Luke (Tony Gatto), a large man with a minor mental disorder. In a nice turn, Gatto's Luke—who cares for Jess and doesn't care for Archie—runs from calm to anger, and shows a tender side during a brief visit from his emotionally detached wife (Tricia Allen). The balance of the cast is varied in quality.
Christopher Nelson's direction of the drama is taut and mostly fine; however, his staging is inconsistent in defining—on one open stage—three claustrophobic prison cells separated by imaginary walls.
Though perhaps a bit melodramatic now, The Disposal is still powerful and controversial 40-plus years later. With this production, most, if not all, of its power comes from Dever's absolutely stunning performance. As Jess, he shares the "pretty world of his youth," his frenzied fear of death, his rejection of religion—"I don't want life everlasting, I want it now"—and his desperate need to have his earthly father's (Scot Renfro) forgiveness.
"Disposal," presented by and at Company of Angels, 2106 Hyperion Blvd., Silverlake. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m. Sept. 24-Oct. 30. $15. (323) 883-1717.