With the brooding melodrama of an Edward Hopper painting, Rod Serling’s 1956 teleplay has become a standard of post–WWII angst, which presented the flip side of American optimism in the mid-20th century. In gritty, poetic language worthy of Eugene O’Neill, Serling creates a testosterone-driven world of desperation and failure that shadows the shadowy world of prize fighting.
Once-successful promoter Maishe Resnick (Ken Butler) sinks to betting against his own aging “boy” boxer, Mountain McClintock (Bob Rusch), sending both into financial and emotional tailspins. Social worker Grace Miller (Tonja Kahlens) intervenes and becomes entangled with McClintock, setting off a power struggle with Resnick. Under Eric Johnson’s shamelessly heavy-handed yet effective direction, the cast provide scene-chewing performances that somehow fit perfectly into Serling’s breast-beating play. Rusch fills every moment of his performance as the big-lug boxer with Serling’s bathos — excruciating and sparkling with life. The design team combines to create the dark Hopper world with enormous skill in this tiny theater.
SkyPilot Theatre Company at T.U. STUDIOS, 10943 Camarillo St., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 24. (800) 838-3006. (Tom Provenzano)