Cuttings, Stage Left Theatre. As the first act of David Rush’s new play concludes, convicted child molester Paul is headed for southern Indiana driving a stolen car on an expired license with Gregory, an underage hustler. Gregory has learned to enjoy assisting Paul with his regular “game,” slicing his own flesh for sexual gratification. The two are on their way to visit Gregory’s mother, who might have spent a few years molesting Gregory herself.

Rush lays on the dysfunctions a bit thick, but a powerful human saga lies at the heart of this overwritten, inefficient drama. Rather than boiling his story down to its essentials–a useful tactic for avoiding melodrama when handling such extreme material–Rush jumps back and forth in time, which creates ineffective repetitions, and includes copious amounts of idle chatter. A climactic showdown between Paul and Gregory’s mother strains credulity beyond the breaking point.

Still, there’s a creepy intensity to the desperate attachment between Paul and Gregory, both trying to turn prurience into purity, thanks in no small part to high-stakes performances from Ron Wells and Geoff Rice. Although under Jessi D. Hill’s direction their relationship often feels more staged than lived, both men’s unexpected emotional shifts give their connection a volatile richness. With more streamlined action and a better foil than Gregory’s two-dimensional mother, these two might carry an entire play.