Crime on Goat Island, Theo Ubique Theatre Company, at the Heartland Studio Theater. Actors onstage must give one another a place to stake their faith, especially in a play as slippery as Ugo Betti’s modernist marvel Crime on Goat Island. Three women–widow Agata, daughter Sylvia, and sister-in-law Pia–live in self-imposed exile in a desolate mountain valley. One day a wandering libertine appears, claiming to have been sent by Agata’s deceased POW husband. By sunset he’s ensconced as sultan over this unlikely harem, and his violent streak begins to bleed through.

Staging Betti’s allegorical tale of civilization’s war with instinct requires great insight, for his characters must negotiate intricate contradictory impulses and loyalties. This fledgling cast, under Fred Anzevino’s direction, seems unwilling to dig much below the surface, marking through an hour-plus first act without finding an honest relationship among them. In the middle of the second act, however, Andrea Washburn as Sylvia does a miraculous star turn, delivering a blistering attack on her morally bankrupt mother and saving the show in the process. Suddenly there’s truth onstage, and the cast has a place to stake its faith. The production gains just enough credibility to coast to the finish line. –Justin Hayford