Another Tricky Day, Crawford Hose Company Productions, at Heartland Studio Theater. At the age of 12, Marcus Martin suddenly found himself the man of the family. Unfortunately, his sense of responsibility allowed his younger brother, Wrench, to remain a child with an uncanny knack for disrupting other people’s plans, then crowing over the audacious way he escapes punishment. All that is about to change, however: Marcus is selling the family home, moving to a subdivision town house–and he’s not taking Wrench with him.

Given the choice of a charming prig or a charming parasite, you’d probably side with the one less likely to steal your wallet and ask why you lost it, but playwright Spike Kunetz gives both the Martin brothers plenty of opportunities to argue their views. Though he occasionally resorts to artifice and didacticism in the interest of exposition, Kunetz creates a complex narrative dynamic in which expectations are set up and just as quickly knocked down (even the obligatory seduction in a car comically stalls under its own metaphors). He keeps us guessing right up to the poignant, horrifyingly plausible finish.

Director Michael S. Pieper and his actors–Patrick Brennan and David Coleman as the sibling rivals, with Bob Rusch as the brainless buddy and Ellen Mills as the equally brainless babe they covet–have obviously worked hard to make what they do look easy. The result is a tightly focused chiller whose surface authenticity makes its hidden heartbreak all the more tragic. –Mary Shen Barnidge

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): still by Spike Kunetz.