To Bernie, a tendentious, chauvinistic air-conditioning salesman, who has lived on New York's Upper West Side for most of his life, the city—and the country—are headed for big trouble. He laments the growing incivility and violence of urban life, and looks back fondly on the virtues and self-effacing heroism personified by his hero, General Robert E. Lee. His theories are put to the test when his friend Frankie, the third generation owner of Sammy's Barber Shop, on Columbus Avenue, is told he can name his price if he will sell out to a computer-fed pharmaceutical supply consortium, who claim that they want to be near the many fashionable bars and restaurants frequented by the neighborhood's resident yuppies. Actually, as Bernie suspects, the eager would-be buyers are drug dealers, and Bernie makes it his crusade to save Frankie from becoming a pawn of the forces of evil—which leads to a series of quirky, arresting and often antically funny scenes. But, while Bernie ultimately persuades Frankie to fight back by remodeling his barber shop into a trendy "Old-Time Barber Shoppe-Cafe," his "victory" is hardly complete, as the very people he seeks to discourage come pouring in anyway, unleashing a high-tech drug operation so sophisticated that, ironically, it becomes virtually unstoppable.
First produced by New York's highly regarded Playwrights Horizons, this lively, often acerbic black comedy centers on the energetic efforts of its working-class hero, Bernie, to stem the tide of materialism and immorality which, he believes, is undermining the strength of American Society. "Mr. Heelan writes caustic and witty dialogue and creates intriguing characters." —NY Times. "…furiously sad and funny play…[its] charged language has the impact and immediacy of a bullet." —NY Post. "…I think that Mr. Heelan may be a born writer…" —The New Yorker.