Theater: Hopeless Nights, Dreamless Days

SLAB BOYS by John Byrne

For all their vaunted coolness of acting technique, the British seem to demand that their plays make heated arguments. The enemy may be imperialism, fascism, racism, even male chauvinism or the belabored-to-death class system, but an enemy there must be. Americans often make a hash of British plays, mangling not just the accents but the invective. Sometimes, though, an American director's instinctively naturalistic approach, evoking a slice of life, can soften a didactic play and give it newfound emotional depth.

That happy circumstance has befallen Slab Boys, a...

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