A play featuring a secret Internet tryst in an old pickup truck—parked in Staten Island’s favorite landfill, no less—promises some compelling seediness, if nothing else. So why does Fresh Kills ultimately come off so wholesome? Part gritty social realism, part community theater–level comedy, Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s script struggles to find a tone befitting its potentially transgressive material. Eddie—a married middle-aged blue-collar dad—trolls the Net for teenage boys, one of whom, Arnold, pursues him for an extended relationship. But instead of probing the demons that fuel Eddie’s recklessness, Wilder seems more interested in rigging sensational and farcical plot twists, especially when Eddie’s oblivious wife takes a maternal liking to Arnold.
Director Isaac Byrne skillfully stages the proceedings in and around a lifesize Mitsubishi Mighty Max (crammed into 59E59’s smallest space), but an overly breezy atmosphere encourages more cheap laughs than unsettling insight. Todd Flaherty brings welcome electricity to the feral Arnold, while Robert Funaro’s nice-guy persona doesn’t add any layers to the script’s already slim portraiture of Eddie. Fresh Kills‘s contemporary working-class milieu may be appealing, but it’s ultimately only incidental backdrop, and Wilder’s clumsy, pseudo-tragic climax reveals the play for the facile morality tale it is.