GLORY IN THE FLOWER, Chicago Actors Studio. William Inge’s one-act and this production complement each other beautifully: the play is dated and discursive while the production is stagy and superficial. The central character comes from Inge’s better-known Bus Riley’s Back in Town, and the rest of the characters are also familiar: beaten-down salesmen, fighters who never were contenders, small-town folks with pipe dreams, fraudulent big shots, disillusioned lovers. The title comes from the same line of Wordsworth that provided the name for Splendor in the Grass–perhaps Inge never read another poem.
As Jackie, the fading piano teacher thrilled to see her high school lover again, Mary Dehne is more credulous than credible; her disillusionment with the transparently dishonest Bus would be more affecting if she began the evening knowing on some level what a schmuck he is. Similarly, Bus would be more sympathetic when he’s brought low if Brian Bogulski showed any of the insecurity beneath the character’s blowhard pronouncements. But the slick bastard you see is all you get. Martin Holt has a charming turn as a recent high school graduate in love with the thirtysomething Jackie, but everyone else’s character is just a collection of lines. Director Jeffrey Lewis unwisely stages the play’s pivotal scene off to the side while placing intrusive dancing center stage. This work should have been left to its obscurity.