As Nick Whalen, the town's handyman, James Henriksen expertly provides the lion's share of discord in this tale. Whalen, whose ex-wife is removing all vestiges of his image from the family's photos, is a lighted fuse.
He alternates between bouts of bullying jocularity and explosive, almost uncontrollable fits of rage. In a less capable actor's hands, this would seem melodramatic rather than the moving portrayal Henriksen embodies.
As Whalen's on-again, off-again buddy, Perry Latimer, actor David Wells brings to life a character whose doubts ironically have led him to exchange a spiritual career for something more worldly. Perhaps the most fragile member of this assemblage, Latimer, once a minister, is now an insurance salesman.
Their guru, of sorts, is Leo Applegate, a wise observer of the human conditions each of these men is struggling to overcome. On the night reviewed, Tom Finnegan filled in for regular cast member Richard Herd without missing so much as a beat.
Finnegan infused Leo's grandfatherly persona with moments of insightful clarity as he intuitively aided each man in recognizing their need for male camaraderie. And all of this percolates to a boiling point because Leo has invited a new resident of the town, lawyer Joel Bixby, to attend their get-together. Playwright Simpson utilizes Bixby's presence on multiple levels.
Physically, he's there to fill the position left vacant by the sudden death of former member Walter Deagon. Conversely, his attendance brings to the forefront self-examination by these men as to why they need one-another's support.
JD Cullum's portrayal of Bixby is brilliantly understated. His stunned, hang-dog quality is reminiscent of Bob Newhart as he struggles with the realization that he has wasted years insulating himself from human companionship.
These individual performances, evolving on Henriksen's simple set design, come together through the cohesiveness direction of Don Eitner. His steady hand is evident as this 75-minute, one-act play seamlessly ebbs and flows to its thoughtful conclusion.
DINK O'NEAL, a Burbank resident, is an actor and member of the American Theatre Critics Assn.