Mike Batistick’s play about identity crisis among ‘the working poor’ has some sharp lines and could be interesting in the right hands. But this lacklustre production does it no favours.

Hard-up Big Mac addict Wendell (Craig Kelly) is struggling to provide for his pregnant wife, Lina, while trying to rid their tiny New York apartment of an unwanted guest – his unemployed childhood friend Floyd (George Georgiou).

Batistick plays up the parallels between the cooped-up Wendell and the caged rooster he and Floyd are grooming to make some quick cash in an illegal cockfight. Male ego is on the line: they are jacked up on E numbers, socially disempowered and simmering with frustration.

But here, instead of a pressure cooker, we get tumbleweed. Under Sam Neophytou’s listless direction, scenes drift aimlessly, almost to a halt in places. A bland set and perfunctory lighting drain the production of any character.

Lisa Maxwell hits the right note of dry resignation as beer-swigging expectant mum, Lina. But the majority of the cast give hesitant, low-key performances that lack energy. Everything feels under-rehearsed.

The plot takes a twist too many and ends up straining credibility. But ‘Chicken’ deserves better than this headless treatment.

First published by Time Out