Chad Deal 8:22 p.m., May 20
Eric Weiss's dream has come true. All those years, all those words, the two failed books — now he's made "the list." He's got the 11th best-selling novel in the country.
It's called Brooklyn Boy. It is, or is not, a thinly disguised autobiography about growing up at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The father resembles Eric's crusty, abusive father. The mother, same. Even Ira Zimmer, former schoolmate, peeks through. The book is "fiction," Eric keeps telling people, who keep recognizing themselves — often unflatteringly — on its pages.
Donald Margulies's comedy-drama puts Eric on a pinnacle, then systematically demolishes it in six serio-comical scenes.
Eric's parents didn't know at the time, but they gave their son the same name as Harry Houdini, the escape artist (minus the "h" in Erich). Eric wrote the book, in one sense, to escape his family, his youth, and his Jewishness. His 15 minutes of fame allow him to try on "a whole new wardrobe": famous author; in demand at book-signings; hot Hollywood property; even object of desire.
As William Faulkner observed, Eric finds that "the past is never dead. It's not even past."
His path is never in doubt. And Margulies's conclusion feels tacked on. What grabs, in the script and the Scripps Ranch production, is how the comic and the serious both expand the deeper Eric falls.
Cris O'Bryon, often cast for his musical skills, does a fine turn as Eric, for whom the best of times becomes the worst (dying father, divorce, disillusionment about fame — and about how people read his book). As the world around him becomes more and more absurd, O'Bryon deftly unpeels Eric, making him more and more alienated from himself.
Margulies constructed Brooklyn Boy with two-hander dialogues. Ably directed by Ruff Yeager, the Scripps Ranch cast defines characters —and caricatures — with skill. Fred Harlow makes Ira Zimmer, the stay-at-home Nebbish, annoying and touching ("What is it you were born with," he asks Eric with a cry of despair, "that I wasn't?").
Wendy Waddell has a lark as a brash, shallow, scene-chewing Hollywood producer. Charlene Koepf, a new face locally, is just right as Alison, a young star-collector who swears she's not a groupie. Amanda Cooley Davis, Adam Daniel, and Paul Bourque also contribute.
Scripps Ranch Theatre,10455 Pomerado Road, Scripps Ranch. Playing through February 19; Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 858-578-7728.