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Center Theater Ensemble.

This may be Center Theater Ensemble’s “milestone” tenth season, but Dark Hours makes them look like rank beginners. This world premiere, about a recently blinded sculptor and his obsessive female caretaker, is not only incompetent but insulting. The sculptor, for instance, inexplicably spends half his time shoveling clay–actually sand–from one pile to another. “Leave me alone! I’m working!” he barks while ostensibly making a sand castle. Even with disbelief suspended, does director Bruce Burgun really think a sculptor would leave clay lying around in a pile in the open air?

It doesn’t help that playwright Jennifer Maisel hasn’t learned the fine distinction between writing a play and staring at her navel. She may imagine that this two-hour, misogynist slobberfest says something original about pathological romantic delusions. But with its repugnant, tissue-thin characters, helplessly confused logic, and plentiful stretches of incomprehensible dialogue, Dark Hours offers all the insights of a bad case of the DTs. The five-person cast understandably find no link to their material, remaining so disconnected from one another that they must have rehearsed in separate isolation tanks. The abundant graphic sexual language, mutual groping, and simulated humping have all the spontaneity of a Swank photo shoot.

In the first act’s stupefyingly inept climax the sculptor apparently smashes all his stained-glass artwork–none of which is onstage–by picking up a shovel and spinning around twice. Someone watching screams in horror, “What are you doing?” Good question.