It seems that Harry Potter’s bratty, rotund cousin Dudley has unexpectedly gone studly ? and writerly. In the Off Broadway solo show peddling (playing through May 18 at 59E59 Theatres), the handsome 25-year-old actor-playwright Harry Melling first appears lying in a British field in nothing but black Jockey underwear, clothes strewn beside him. He spends the next hour trying to make sense of his situation, which seems to follow a bacchanal of major proportions. Much like his Potter costar Daniel Radcliffe, who embodies a disabled, chronically ill orphan in The Cripple of Inishmaan 11 streets away on Broadway, Melling seems to relish going to the dark side.
Melling’s character, known only as Boy, is a 19-year-old street urchin who sells household products (toothpaste, toilet paper, the Brit-favored J-cloths) out of a ratty orange crate. Cleverly encased in a canvas-wrapped cube by scenic designer Lily Arnold, Boy circles the crate like a feral wolf chasing its tail and recounts his tale in profane, elliptical bursts (”just a?professional pain in the arse selling the means with which to wipe your arse. peddling toothpaste to already whitened teeth. peddling dust pan and brush to those who’ve never had to clean up after themselves?”).
In its free-form style, Melling’s play grows repetitious over the course of an hour. He favors a rather opaque parceling of details and withholds many crucial details about the narrator, including just how mentally damaged he really is. But as keenly directed by Steven Atkinson, the actor is completely magnetic as he performs mere inches from audience members in the circular-surround seating. Only a Muggle could resist his live-wire act. B