Set in Coney Island, the plot centers around the marriage of Paulie, a never-quite-made-it cage fighter, and Mary. Though the two love each other, the union has yet to be consummated. Paulie just can’t get it up for his childhood friend turned bride. The opening ten minutes centers around Mary’s randiness and Paulie’s evasion exclusively, as they prepare a welcome home party for their friend, and Mary’s ex-husband, Petie, who is returning from fighting in the Middle East. Add some mobsters, underage sexual encounters, a family man loan shark, and a staple gun, and you’ve got a hilarious farce on your hands (deftly performed by a large cast of eleven).
After the Amoralists last show, The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side, I went in to Poorhouse with perhaps unfairly high expectations. The company of actors is solid, Ahonen has proven himself one of the more talented contemporary playwrights, and the staging is fun and relentless. Poorhouse is definitely more spoofy and satirical than Pied Pipers, which makes for some fun revelations, hiding of characters, and fistfights. There are moments where I felt overwhelmed by the form: a couple of interactions that were way too sitcommy for my taste, a couple of plot devices in the forms of characters or relationships that felt more like devices, and a button that is entirely unresolved and confusing. Ahonen doesn’t need these crutches, in other words, and perhaps is still finding his voice as he molts his education of the well-made play.Still, the Amoralists remain perhaps the only true-blue theatre company to see these days, and Happy in the Poorhouse is fun fun fun.