Breed with Me, Mammals Theatre Company, at Bailiwick Repertory. Film noir used to pack strong philosophical messages–about the cruelty of human beings, the absurdity of everyday life, the hopelessness of waiting for God to intervene in our petty affairs. But it long ago became just another visual style, typified by shadows and hard-boiled acting and appropriated by copywriters, interior designers, and comedy writers eager to make a statement without saying anything controversial.

The beauty of writer-director Bob Fisher’s noirish sci-fi thriller, about a pedophile on the run from the police who clashes with a beautiful, diabolical woman, is that it evokes both the look and the spirit of the original noir films. The actors perfectly re-create the terse, emotionally guarded acting style that adds power to such noir classics as Detour, Sunset Boulevard, and The Big Heat, and the story contains just enough Night Gallery twists to keep the audience guessing. Even more impressive is the pure existential dread packed into this low-budget production. For 50 minutes I was alternately fascinated and terrified by the wonderfully perverse story of a seductive woman who may or may not be a killer.