Off Broadway Reviews
Doesn't sound like much, does it? But McElligott, whose writing credits are relatively sparse, has a sharp, original voice, and a way of teasing surprising but believable humor out of tragedy. In a Little Room begins with someone spilling cold coffee on someone else, catching us immediately off guard, and telling us anything can happen. More surprises are on the way, and McElligott is particularly graceful at introducing notes of sadness among the joke-telling, magazine quizzes, and other efforts Manning and Charlie are embracing to dodge their dark prospects.
McElligott loves words. He delights in malapropismsthe room they're in must be safe, Manning says, because the walls are "fire retarded." He has a bracing monologue on the derivation of "hunky-dory," which, whether it's true or not (apparently there's some disagreement about that), felicitously exposes Manning as a collector of trivia, an expert on irrelevant knowledge, and a possible ADD casualty. He sure leaps about: "Do you just reset every two minutes?" Charlie asks him. Charlie has issues of his own, beyond the immediate shock he's suffered, and when he finally blurts out about the departed, "She was an overpowering bitch," it's both unexpected and perfectly logical.
They're two guys chewing the fat, under extraordinary circumstances. They don't want to deal with death, so they deal with everything else. Kreager, the only Equity member, is a terrific Manningaffable, distracted, and able to convey the depth of feeling beneath the blithe surface. Morales, required at one point to lose his temper, goes way overboardmight director Patrick Vassel be to blame?and it's a while before we trust him again. Once back on solid ground, he stays there. David Triacca, required to be a) the guy who gets coffee spilled on him, b) a polite but officious doctor, and c) a safety specialist who drops in to tell a really funny dirty joke and to philosophize on the meaning of life, is comfortable in all three skins.
It ends kind of in mid-thought, and I'd like to know whether Manning, possibly about to be consumed in flames, makes it out. Also, some salient details go missing: We never hear about what he does, or if he has a wife, or why she isn't there. McElligott, though, is a smart, engaging voice we'll want to hear more from, and In a Little Room adds up to 80 of the better minutes you can spend in the East Village right now.
In a Little Room