"Toyer" concerns a chap in Los Angeles who performs lobotomies on young women. He tortures them emotionally beforehand and revels in the publicity that inevitably results.
Gardner McKay tells us little else in his two-act, two-character exercise. The Eisenhower Theater's production, while occasionally artful, has the clammy feel of a cheap thrill.
Tony ("The Entertainer") Richardson directs, while Kathleen ("Body Heat") Turner and Brad ("Midnight Express") Davis play victim and villain respectively. The opening scene has Turner, as Maude, at a loss to start her Volkswagen after a night game of tennis; Davis, as Peter, comes to her aid on a motorcycle.
A whiff of exhaust -- because the production boasts a real Volkswagen and a real motorcycle -- is accompanied by the sound of a tennis ball getting batted back and forth: It's an ominous crescendo that recurs between scenes.
Some simple-minded implausibilities land Peter in Maude's bachelorette house on a hillside for the main event. Knocking back liqueur, Peter mentions the Toyer, who's been terrorizing the neighborhood. "Why do you keep talking about him?" Maude demands. "Because he fascinates you," Peter replies. The audience, apparently, is supposed to wonder, is he or isn't he? -- but there's never any doubt.
For the duration, Peter alternately comforts and threatens: "You have something quite wonderful about you -- that optimism," he says malevolently. Maude, though a psychotherapist, is an easy mark: She smugly takes him first for a harmless homosexual, then a peeping Tom, then an actor doing an exercise and finally a pathological killer. Sometimes she screams; mostly she weeps and whimpers while Peter giggles and grins.
As Peter, Davis is something of a poor man's Jack Nicholson -- his smile not quite as winning, his irony not as well aimed. Turner -- who doffs her tennis blouse for the occasion, even as Davis strips to his undies -- has sultry presence, but what's the point? "The more inhumane the crime, the more humane the punishment," Peter says, and prattles on about selling the book rights to his story.
It's philosophy straight from the dime store, while "Toyer" is from the pulling- wings-off-flies school of dramatic interaction. It seems a feeble excuse for a play. TOYER -- At the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater through March 5.