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Fresh Kills

Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder
Young Playwrights Season
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
(2004)

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Fresh Kills focuses on the life of ordinary Eddie, a forty-something Italian-American who sounds like Marlon Brando, bites off more than he can chew when he seeks a new love. Finding 16-year-old Arnold in a chat room is easy enough. Losing him again is much more difficult.

The latest play in the Young Playwrights Season is set on Staten Island in New York, where Phil Daniels' Eddie lives with his unambitiously aspirational wife Marie, played by Nicola Walker, and their son, Eddie Junior.

Ultz, a specialist in industrial sets, has transported a pickup truck to the Upstairs theatre, a major effort apparently involving bisection and a winch. The truck is a major player as it is the scene of much chatter as well as two bouts of oral sex for Eddie and the play's dramatic finale.

He meets the underaged and possibly deranged Arnold, Matt Smith at the symbolic rubbish dump of the title but once there excitement flees and he is fit for nothing better than to be blackmailed. Soon Arnold is an unwelcome family guest.

Eventually, with the assistance of John Sharian as Eddie's policeman brother-in-law, Nick, he beats a rap but cannot escape his destiny, or his sharp-tongued wife.

Eddie is unbelievably naive. His family life is pretty happy but for unexplained reasons resorts to the type of internet escapism that is deeply worrying in a loving father and scoutmaster. Almost inevitably, the next stage leaves him close to suicidal.

With minimal lighting, director Wilson Milam, very much in his element, creates the perfect atmosphere and there is some sharp dialogue to accompany the action.

Fresh Kills is reminiscent of David Mamet, or even Arthur Miller. The plotting is not always original and can be predictable but Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder has created a fine protagonist. Despite his innocence, Eddie is an interesting and ultimately sympathetic character thanks to a strong performance from Daniels.

This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version

Reviewer: Philip Fisher