A STONE CARVER, American Theater Company. This dollop of cloying pabulum certainly hasn't changed my opinion of playwright William Mastrosimone, reigning champion of the cliche, nor has it challenged his position as first runner-up for the least convincing writer of female characters, a close second behind David Mamet. But John Mohrlein's performance in this American Theater Company production as the vino-swilling, Caruso-listening, pasta-scarfing stone carver Augostino--who clings to the house he's built, now condemned and slated for demolition--makes this work bearable.
Snarling, grimacing, skulking, muttering, shouting, and pining for his late wife, Mohrlein gives one of those transcendent performances that rise above impersonation to total embodiment of the character. Mohrlein has replaced Mastrosimone's easy laughs with wit, his melodrama with pathos, and his fantasies with a sense of reality. In the all-too-predictable if less showy role of Augostino's successful son Raff, who's turned his back on the old ways and forgotten even how to work with his hands, Stef Tovar matches Mohrlein note for note; this pair is rivetingly believable onstage despite lines that are pure kitsch. Dawn Bach does what she can with the woefully underwritten role of Raff's fiancee, who tries to mediate between and care for these two hardheaded men. Required merely to react, she performs the unfortunate function of reminding us that we're watching a Mastrosimone play after all. --Adam Langer