The screwed-up clan on display in Gary Lennon's densely bleak comedy gives new resonance to Tolstoy's renowned adage about how every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Turmoil and pain are woven into the DNA of the three Burns brothers of Hell's Kitchen. The oldest, Frank (Saverio Guerra), is a coke addict with a volcanic temper, no job and a wife (Andrea Grano) he despises. Baby brother Sean (Sean Wing) is a gay TV writer, who is first seen preparing to commit suicide off the Brooklyn Bridge; he's stopped by a passerby (Darryl Stephens), who later becomes his lover. Just out of prison, Jim (Johnny Messner), a hulky, tattooed mass of bully-boy attitude and wrath, has vowed to kill Sean because he's gay and Frank because he thinks he snitched him out to the cops. Working it out is what this bunch is ultimately forced to do and, notwithstanding the unpleasant circumstances, it's a load of laughs to watch. Lennon can write funny; he is also a virtuoso of gritty, in-your-face dialogue, and his well-crafted script gives PC niceties the heave-ho. These are engaging, splendidly flawed characters, and the cast turn in vigorous, entertaining performances under Chris Fields' savvy direction. Stage 52, 5299 W. Washington Blvd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through March 17. (877) 369-9112, echotheatercompany.com.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Feb. 16. Continues through March 17, 2013