” Philip Ridley

Better homes and gardens of good and evil

"Radiant Vermin" at CoHo Theater takes an hilarious look at how far folks will go for a few nice things.

In Will Eno’s Title and Deed, which Imago Theatre staged last month, that play’s lone character assures us, at one point, that he’s a good person. Then immediately he amends the claim: “Well, not deep down.”

In Philip Ridley’s Radiant Vermin, now on the boards in a darkly, dazzlingly funny production at CoHo Theater, Jill and Ollie tell us right away that they, too, are good people. But they, too, are inclined to offer a caveat:

OLLIE: We hope we are.

JILL: We try to be.

OLLIE: And yet . . . some of the things we’ve done –

Jill and Ollie, it turns out, don’t really know and are only very slightly inclined to think about, who they are deep down. But they’ve encountered someone who sees the kind of people they really are. Even when she’s only just met them, she can tell them about their own formative childhood experiences, how their flat is decorated, or about their favorite place to shop.

As she puts it — so sweetly that there’s no room for creepiness or menace — “Miss Dee knows what Miss Dee knows!”

She also has a little proposition for them.

Miss Dee knows what Miss Dee knows! Diane Kondrat (center) tempts Kelly Godell and Chris Murray in “Radiant Vermin” at CoHo Theater. Photo: Owen Carey.

She’s in charge of a quasi-governmental program called “the Department of Social Regeneration Through the Creation of Dream Homes,” which tries to kick-start the improvement of run-down neighborhoods. And because Jill and Ollie are the right kind of clients — he’s good with his hands and she has “oodles” of taste, plus they’re both “good people” — she will give them a house.

That’s right. Just give it to them. No strings attached. All they have to do is fix the place up.

Wouldn’t you know it, though, what seems at first like no kind of a catch at all — “All repairs and renovations to the property are your responsibility” — turns out to be a doozy.

Continues…