Because of its light tone, Israel Horovitz’s Gloucester Blue may strike some of the prolific playwright’s admirers as one of his slighter plays, although the plot involves an extramarital affair, violence and a pair of murders.
Yet even when he’s writing a playful dark comedy, Horovitz the craftsman layers in the history of his characters and the places that shaped them, class and economic distinctions, and insight into what drives behavior, self-destructive and otherwise.
So Gloucester Blue, now getting its world premiere at the 150-seat Theatre at Arts Garage in Delray Beach, deftly illuminates a world as it entertains us.
Directed by Louis Tyrrell, who previously presented Horovitz’s shattering Sins of the Mother at the now-defunct Florida Stage, Gloucester Blue gets a solid, impressively-acted first production.
Set and lighting designer Stephen Placido’s budget is clearly a fraction of what the Florida Stage gang had to work with, but he effectively creates the small-scale upper level of an abandoned fish processing plant in Gloucester, Mass. The run-down loft with its weathered architectural bones and stunning harbor views is being transformed by a pair of working-class painters into a summer house for a wealthy couple, and it’s there that Horovitz’s clever comedy unfolds.
Chatting away about everything from where they grew up to their taste in music, their Gloucester accents as thick as the primer they’re feathering onto the old walls, are Stumpy (David Michael Sirois) and Latham (Stephen G. Anthony). Stumpy is an NPR kind of guy, a striver who leaves responsibility behind in pursuit of an irresistible if dangerous relationship. Latham is a garrulous, Aerosmith-loving fellow with a shady past, keen powers of observation and a gift for using information to his advantage.
The men are working for an upper-class couple with issues. Sexy Lexi (Andrea Conte) is the articulate, Harvard-educated daughter of a judge, a restless woman with a secret. Her hubby Bummy (Michael St. Pierre) is suspicious of his wife, and with good reason. Enough said.
Gloucester Blue features a quartet of fine performances, particularly by Anthony and Sirois, whose characters are simply richer and more intriguing than the upper-crust types Conte and St. Pierre are playing. With his flawless accent and charismatic craftiness, Anthony creates a volatile yet irresistible stage villain in Latham.
If Gloucester Blue has a life beyond Delray Beach, Horovitz might consider dropping the snippets of music that his son, Adam Horovitz (of The Beastie Boys), composed to underscore moments of romance or danger. Nothing wrong with the music itself, but its brief appearances pull the audience out of the flow of dialogue.
How much you enjoy watching the play at Arts Garage may depend in part on whether you’re an adventurous or traditional theatergoer. The audience sits at tables, and lots of groups bring in their own food and wine, creating do-it-yourself dinner theater. (The opening-night bunch at Gloucester Blue, it should be noted, was absolutely attentive to the play.) The tables are packed so close together that exiting at intermission means navigating an obstacle course, and getting a clear view of the action can require frequent leaning, particularly if you happen to be seated behind someone who’s tall. Maybe Latham could do a little furniture rearranging.