CROSSING BOUNDARIES IV: LEAP OF FAITH, Strawdog Theatre Company. In its fourth year, Crossing Boundaries takes as its theme “religion”–only slightly less nebulous a subject than last year’s “the life of the mind.” I suppose in a country as spiritually bankrupt as ours the project sounded promising. But whose idea was it to present nine untried plays lasting nearly three hours in the middle of July in a theater that runs its air-conditioning only during intermission? Perhaps it was the same person who imagined that a scene between a wacky patient and her new therapist or a gritty, urban updating of Little Red Riding Hood would somehow address “spirituality in the modern world.” Sure, the wacky patient pursues every New Age gimmick to give her life meaning, and Red’s mother mentions that since her daughter’s death she no longer believes in God. But to say that these plays are about modern spirituality is like saying Crime and Punishment is about the evils of pawnshops.

Those pieces that tackle religious issues head-on do so without much depth or insight. Despite some strong directing and even stronger acting, the plays rarely pose questions that haven’t been hashed to death since, oh, the Reformation. With the exception of Lindsay Porter, whose evocative fable of a woman traumatized after killing a mouse is the only piece that doesn’t overreach its scope, these playwrights either gussy up trivialities as profundities or trivialize profundities through overzealous writing. –Justin Hayford