Poor Townsend. His long-lost son has changed his name to Dolly and favors dresses and brassieres to suits and ties. Dad feels bad about having been mean to Dolly, so he makes arrangements to meet him at a scuzzy restaurant that caters to the down-and-out. Thus playwright Sandra Peck charts the course of "Eddie's People," a new play at the Source Theatre, but the journey goes strictly nowhere.
Townsend and Eddie, the restaurant's proprietor, immediately announce they dislike each other, which seems a bit peremptory after an acquaintance of approximately five minutes. But Peck's play is not strong on logic, consistency or development, and the hostilities, like much of the rest of the play, are inexplicable and pointless.
What the play is strong on is one character, a loony ex-mental patient named Madame Roseanne. Mary Woods endows this creature with an elaborate and endearing eccentricity, personalizing the all-too-common plight of those released from institutions without having the wherewithal -- mental or financial -- to cope in the outside world. Such people gravitate to places like Eddie's, where tolerant owners provide a grubby sanctuary.
But one strong character does not make a play. It is unclear, for example, why Eddie, who uses terms such as "ex cathedra" and "metaphysical," is playing nanny to a group of street people. There also are annoyingly transparent devices, such as having Townsend constantly ask what time it is, even though he tells us he is rich enough to have butlers and cases of silver, and surely could afford a watch.
Needless to say, Dolly never arrives, and the play is not really about him/her at all. Townsend's conflicts about his son's unconventionality ("I gagged my guts out the day he told me he wanted to be a woman") are not really explored, and the absence of Dolly leaves that relationship a cipher. Whether through the strength of Woods' performance or the inadequacy of her two colleagues, the play ends up being about Roseanne, her pathetic madness and her vulnerability. Maybe someday she'll get a play worthy of her. Eddie's People, by Sandra Peck, directed by John MacDonald, designed by Bart Whiteman and V. Hanna Sellers, with Bill Delaney, Bill Delaney Sr. and Mary Woods. At the Source Mainstage, Wednesdays through Sundays through Aug. 31.