If Beavis and Butthead staged Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms for a performance in South Park, it might look a lot like Frederic Glover's new comedy Desire in the Suburbs. Not so much dark and erotic as horny and dumb, Glover takes O'Neill's passion and Greek themes and aspires -- in vain -- to Desperate Housewives.
As in the O'Neill drama, Glover presents a love triangle between a father and a son. Ed (the nebbishy, one-note Timothy Scott Harris) is an out-of-work, 39-year-old lawyer living with his father, Mike (dignified Baz Snider), and stepmother, Jenny (Dee Dee Friedman, also the company manager). Ed's long-missing mother may be off doing philanthropic work in Africa -- or stored in an urn, murdered by Mike. "90 percent of all murders occur in the home," says Ed at a tense family dinner. "What is wrong with that 10 percent? Don't they know who their real enemies are?" Soon Ed and Jenny are doing the nasty and conspiring to kill Mike.
Glover writes good banter, and as a 20-minute sketch, Desire in the Suburbs would be fun if not original. (Shallowness in the suburbs! Call CNN!) As a two-hour drama, it's interminable. Did Jenny kill her own family in a fire in Scarsdale? Who cares? (Lines that refer to Jenny as a "trophy wife" with "prime estrogen" are cruel to the apparently middle-aged actor, but whether the playwright or the casting bears that responsibility is unclear.) While O'Neill's characters fight about their legacy, and their passion is compelling, Glover's characters (archly called the O'Neills) fight for "a house to kill for."
Kathleen Brant's direction is lively, but she elicits uninteresting performances from her cast. Tim Gobeliewski's set design, with two elegant rooms, is wonderful, though, augmented by the clever lighting design of Aaron Sporer and Travis C. Richardson.
Presented by and at the WorkShop Theater Company,
312 W. 36th St., 4th fl., NYC.
March 16-31. Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.
(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or www.theatermania.com.