Some Voices, Profiles Theatre. After the stir created by British playwright Joe Penhall’s award-winning Blue/Orange in its 2000 London premiere, it’s not surprising that Profiles Theatre would choose to produce another Penhall effort. But under the direction of Patrick Wilkes, this 1994 script exploring mental illness and domestic violence often feels strained and derivative. Ray has been released from a mental hospital into the care of his harried restaurateur brother, Pete. After Ray bumbles into a violent encounter between pregnant Irishwoman Laura (an appealing Sara Maddox) and her brutish boyfriend, Dave, the former patient falls in love with Laura.
Penhall’s writing can be sweet and compassionate, particularly his respectful exploration of Ray’s thwarted search for love and for meaningful work. But the playwright tends to paint in broad strokes, a proclivity that isn’t helped by the mannered performances here. As Pete, Joe Jahraus opts for music hall bellowing and wide-eyed mugging, undercutting scenes that should have shown us what Ray’s illness has cost his brother. Jim Jarvis’s Dave is a cardboard villain, and though Darrell W. Cox’s performance as Ray is energetic, he too veers into the trap of playing mannerisms instead of motivations.
But there are some undeniably lovely passages and tender moments, and at least Penhall’s cribbing reveals good taste: in one chilling scene he echoes both King Lear and Waiting for Godot as Ray and his mental-hospital buddy Ives (Bill Brennan) spend a frightening night on the streets.