March 13, 2015

When Tommy Maloney, a cocky first grader, mentions his $10-a-week allowance, Coal announces that he gets $100. And not only that, little Coal adds: “My dad is a pirate.” You have to wonder at first whether the story in David Brian Colbert’s “C.O.A.L. (Confessions of a Liar),” at 59E59 Theaters, is going to be told on a juvenile level. But it turns out to be quite grown-up. And Tommy Maloney plays a sad, crucial role. It’s all too familiar a story in its essence. Boy is raised by a falling-down alcoholic father who considers his welfare checks his right, and a timid, churchgoing mother who can’t explain how Jesus can be hurt by Coal’s bad behavior if he died a long, long time ago. Boy becomes a chronic liar, expressing his rationale, as if addressing whoever has just caught him in the deception: “I was convinced I knew what you wanted me to say.” Boy finds something he can do well — he becomes a star on the school swim team — but during his first out-of-town competition, the nice-guy coach, a respected husband and father in the community, shows his affection in unwanted ways. The abuse goes on for years.