Despite every indication that he should try his luck in a less barren locale, chain restaurant manager Eddie (T.R. Knight) clings to his hometown of Pocatello. His franchise is failing, his family is vocally disinterested in spending time with him and his romantic prospects as a single gay man in a foundering Midwestern town are sparse. Yet he soldiers on amid a near constant chorus of characters encouraging him move out and move on, eulogizing the Pocatello of his youth while he arranges place settings, wipes up vomit, and battles a slowly fading sound system.
Mr. Knight does a good job of making Eddie more than a grimacing caricature of repression. Eddie is so frequently forced to endure life’s increasing indignities with a strained smile that a lesser actor might have been unbearable. Hearing him bemoan the faceless corporate establishments that replaced the town he once knew while sitting in a corporate owned establishment that he’s desperately trying to keep alive is sad and funny in just the right measure. Were this its only tragedy, Pocatello may have been something great. Unfortunately, the unnamed Italian chain-restaurant is a revolving door of sadness. Strained family relations, alcoholism, financial ruin, failed marriages, dead parents, dementia, meth addiction, and good old-fashioned depression are all introduced in less than a hundred minutes. Eddie’s desire to endure his own unhappy life in Pocatello already borders on implausible without him having to witness everyone else in town succumb to failure and anguish.
Pocatello collapses under the weight of it all. The ceaseless cascade of misery drowns out any potentially affecting moments. The final scene, one of the finest in the play, seems like it could have been a triumphant moment of catharsis. Instead, it feels like an exhausting epilogue.
Pocatello runs through January 4th at Playwrights Horizons. 416 W. 42nd Street New York, NY. 1 hour 40 minutes. No intermission.