It's hard to imagine a play more knuckleheaded and harebrained than "Knuckle" by David Hare. Though the acting generally seems far from inept, the Source Theater can't make head, tails or drama out of this witless indictment of heartless capitalism.

Hare, A British playwright of some repute, may not have been at his best in 1974 when he wrote this early piece: the story of one Curly Delafield, a young international arms dealer who, like a potboiling private dick, pins the disappearance of his sister Sarah, a nuthouse nurse, on their monstrous banker of a father. In a particularly unpleasant scene, a gun-toting Curly forces gin down the throat of his sister's ex-beau, and cigarettes up his nose, in the dogged pursuit of truth.

Seldom has so slimy a collection of characters fouled the stage. Try as one may, it seems impossible to care about any of them. To make matters worse, there's hardly any action: Hare prefers his principals to tell rather than show.

"You chew all the meat until you hit the lump of gristle," Curly says while conducting one of his baffling interrogations. The Source is chewing more gristle than meat here. KNUCKLE -- At the Source Theatre through April 30.