Quickly to explain the title of the new Hudson Guild Theater attraction, "slab boys" are lowly workers who grind colors and mix glue in the "slab room" of a carpet factory. John Byrne has drawn on his own experiences in such a "slab room" for this slice-of-industrial-life comedy set near Glasgow in 1957.
The play suggests a Scottish version of those working-class dramas that proliferated in the British theater after World War II. The chief stock characters in the color-splattered slab room, designed by James Leonard Joy, are the resident bully (Daniel Gerroll), the bully's sidekick (Gene O'Neil), their perpetual victim (John Pankow), and an upper-class newcomer (Bo Smith), a natural target for the bully's resentful sarcasm.
That the bully's mother is mentally disturbed and that he may possess a deepdown artistic sensibility are Mr. Byrne's rather facile means for winning the character some otherwise unmerited sympathy. The long-winded play's redeeming features are its roughhouse humor (including a funny but overowrked sight gag) and his knack for rendering workaday Glasgow speech. In its New York premiere, "The Slab Boys" is helped by a cast that manages some fairly convincing Glaswegian accents. The excellent company directed by Peter Maloney includes Ian Trigger, Richmond Hoxie, Helena Carroll, and Noreen Tobin.