London critics have dubbed the rude, shocking playwrights that came of age there in the 1990s the “in yer face” school. But while Philip Ridley is counted among their number, his 2007 play Leaves of Glass—now receiving its American premiere from the Origin Theater Company—hardly even musses your hair. A brooding dysfunctional family drama, it traces the seesaw relationship between two adult brothers in the wake of their father’s mysterious death. Steve has it good at first: He’s an aspiring yuppie running a construction business, his wife’s got a baby on the way, and he’s diddling his secretary on the side. Barry, a recovering alcoholic and eccentric painter, begins so steeped in mourning that he has to be rescued from squalor. With Steve’s help, Barry gets his act together—but at a great cost to Steve’s marriage, his business, and his sanity.
As the brothers, Euan Morton and Victor Villar-Hauser make for an engaging odd couple, delivering intense yet nuanced character portraits. But under Ludovica Villar-Hauser’s static direction, this already-meandering script plods along for two intermissionless hours. Ridley displays some richly descriptive language—but it never leaps off the page, and instead we get several inert monologues. Like the title’s inconsequential pun on Whitman, the play strives for poetry, but to empty effect.