The Boy Scout oath asserts, “On my honor I will do my best. . . to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” Though he seems fit, the befuddled Roy, hero of Matthew Schneck’s black comedy
Badge, isn’t otherwise adept at obeying the scout law. Still a member of a Boy Scout troop at 29—”I’m on a diplomatic extension”—he clings to fire-starting and knot-tying as bulwarks against adulthood. The 121 badges he displays on his sash “are armor in an uncertain world.”
Roy’s world becomes even more uncertain when he takes up with the unbalanced sister of his scout leader and contrives to steal a valuable heirloom from his rich and dotty employer. Juilliard grad Greg McFadden, sporting a profoundly dorky haircut, ably represents both Roy’s credulity and wariness. But while Schneck constructs an amusing, if familiar, premise—a man who prefers the rituals and securities of boyhood—the narrative stalls, skidding into weary absurdism. Some of the writing suggests that Schneck has a way with character, but he won’t be earning any merit badges for plot or structure.