Russell's manic portrayal of the mantra-chanting Chick drives the comedy in the production's second half, providing a hilarious distraction as the script forsakes realism for a tidy ending. As for Kolker, his 25 years as a South Florida correctional officer lend real-life background to the heavy Jerry. His bad cop/worse cop interrogation of a trussed-up Vinny, sticking pliers into the latter's back and then complaining about the decline in take-out food, invests Jerry with unbalanced menace. In the lead role, David Caprita delivers a disappointingly internalized performance, portraying Vinny as a nearly emotionless zombie numbed by his precarious dilemma.
Despite its inability to present a uniform tone, Gary Richards's script provides a solid linear story and consistent characters, even managing to survive Vinny's unrealistic actions in the play's weak conclusion. Only Richards's second stage effort (his first, Dividends, played at several local theaters), The Root is referred to by its current producers as a work in progress -- and yet it was a finalist in the annual Eugene O'Neill Playwright's Conference held in Connecticut and has received previous productions at the George Street Playhouse in New Jersey and at Los Angeles's Interact Theatre. With a little more tightening, The Root could grow into a winner.
Written by Gary Richards; directed by Joseph Adler; with John Archie, David Caprita, Joel Kolker, and Arland Russell. Through April 27. For information call 954-929-5400 or see "Calendar Listings.