Helping Hand


When the Good Samaritan of Luke 10:25 chanced upon a naked, beaten man, “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” Rosemary (Rosemary Allen), the Good Samaritan of Richard Maxwell’s new play with music, does not own a donkey. As she runs a rehab center, she would hardly think wine a good analgesic, and oil’s awfully messy.

Rather, Rosemary administers an evangelical tough love, “changing the world, one creep at a time.” She heals the fallen with soup, menial labor, and religious tracts. In the play’s first scene, she stands sturdy and plainly dressed amid the center’s plastic chairs and fluorescent lights. She tunelessly informs God that she’ll “Try my best not to be sinful/But you gotta tell me what you can’t forgive.”

Rosemary finds her faith tested when the inebriated, incontinent Kevin (Kevin Hurley) collapses on her doorstep. Kevin won’t eat her toast, refuses to work in the warehouse, and balks at taking even one of the 12 steps. Sure he’s incorrigible, but Rosemary’s taken with his bravado and exoticism, his tales of world travels. “Geneva, huh?” he regales her. “They have nice hotels there. Amsterdam. Now they got nice hotels.” The two soon embark upon a torrid love affair, which features clumsy simulated sex and the line, “Oh shit. I’m coming,” delivered in patently uninflected Maxwell style.

Aside from these giggle-inducing amours, there isn’t much to distinguish this work from previous Maxwell ventures. But Maxwell is a singular artist and perhaps any venture of his is quite distinguished enough. Once again, the affectless speech, the awkward postures, the fierce untranscendence, and the indissolubly peculiar blend of melodrama and hyper-realism identify the play as distinctly Maxwellian—mundane and somehow wonderful.

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