Clutter at MadKap Productions | Theater review
Mark Saltzman’s recounting of the reclusive Collyer brothers flattens its real-life subjects.
Like their spiritual descendants, “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale of Grey Gardens fame, Homer and Langley Collyer have inspired a number of artistic interpretations of their shared eccentricities. Practicers of compulsive hoarding long before A&E made a TV series out of it, the reclusive Collyer brothers holed up in their Harlem brownstone, packing it to the ceilings with junk and spurring neighborhood gossip. Richard Greenberg’s play The Dazzle and E.L. Doctorow’s novel Homer and Langley are among the more distinguished works based on the brothers; Mark Saltzman’s 2004 play is decidedly lower down the list.
The playwright, a recipient of multiple Emmys for his writing for children’s television, seems to bring the storytelling instincts that make him effective in that arena to his work for the adult stage. Using the framing device of another pair of brothers, NYPD cops investigating the Collyers’ deaths—though both died in the house, the accumulated detritus meant their bodies were discovered weeks apart—Saltzman lays out both the facts and his fictions bullet-point style, repeating the important bits slowly and surely to make sure we get them. Aside from minor arguments between both pairs of brothers, dramatic stakes are wholly absent. And despite some appealing moments from Andrew J. Pond and Michael J. Bullaro as the younger siblings, Wayne Mell’s production does the script no favors with its herky-jerky pacing and puzzling design.