THE DRAWER BOY, Attic Playhouse. Like many better plays, Michael Healey's 1999 drama begins with a stranger coming to town. Young actor-playwright Miles arrives from Toronto to visit Morgan and Angus, lifelong friends who share a farm on the Canadian prairie. A war injury left Angus childlike and without memory (where would playwrights be without amnesia?), so Morgan dominates the farm and Angus alike. Hoping to discover material for a play, Miles presses the men to talk about themselves, forcing their mysterious history into the open. But he's less character than device: there's no believable world in which reticent farmers would open up to some random actor looking for a script.
So the piece's success depends on the interaction of the older men, played authoritatively in 2001 at Steppenwolf by John Mahoney and Frank Galati. Here, unfortunately, a subtly layered performance by Marvin Berman as Angus is paired with Peter Esposito's monochromatic Morgan, admittedly the tougher role--Morgan has complicated motives, a compound of love, regret, memory, and lies that form the true mortar of the show. Also, director Lauren Rawitz mistakenly has Jon Cunningham play Miles almost entirely for laughs: the effect is of a whoopee cushion at a worship service. The uncredited sound design is exceptionally bad, using Beverly Hillbillies-style banjo music that essentially ridicules the show's subjects.