J. Stephen Brantley’s The Jamb is a Gen X–flavored romantic comedy about two middle-age men adrift in a world that has lost its edge. Wild punks in their youth, Roderick (Brantley) and Tuffer (Nic Grelli) used to get high and raise sexual hell together. Roderick got clean six years ago and traded drugs for workouts and righteous anger, while Tuffer, a romantic with a series of addictions, still stashes meth pipes in his pockets and needs his friend to bail him out of his escapades.
At the play’s outset, Tuffer calls Roderick in a drugged-out haze, fearing there’s a “stranger” in his apartment. Roderick swoops in to find the only person there is Tuffer’s new twenty-something boyfriend, Brandon (Todd Flaherty). Fed up, Roderick, about to visit his mother (Carole Monferdini) in New Mexico, decides to take Tuffer along, in hopes of helping him detox.
The Jamb circles the evolving relationship between the old friends, offering mild laughs (and a lot of recriminations) along the way. Roderick relentlessly upbraids Tuffer, which grates. It’s when the setting shifts to New Mexico that we finally see a viable romantic spark; in a finely drawn scene of tender reminiscences, Brantley’s and Grelli’s performances blossom, giving us a glimpse of the vulnerable men behind all the toxic quarreling. But this emotional honesty, like the play itself, blooms a little too late.
Directed by David Drake
The Kraine Theater
85 East 4th Street
Through September 17