EAGLE RIVER, Fervent Theater Company. If this gritty potboiler about south-side working-class losers is any indication, Chicago playwright Albert Letizia is working with the wrong medium. Like many young playwrights weaned on television and cinema, he thinks with the mind of a screenwriter. Tailored for an audience with a short attention span, Letizia’s script leaps directly from exposition to climax, robbing his characters of an opportunity to develop. Unfortunately, he has also directed Eagle River like a film, opening and closing scenes with stark tableaux. They’re a bold choice, but they make the play seem even more artificial.

Letizia has an ear for dialogue: his characters all speak a convincing urban patois. But there are no awkward pauses or uncomfortable silences in Eagle River; all the empty spaces are filled with rambling talk, which puts unnecessary pressure on the actors to find a rhythm. It’s a shame, because the excellent five-member cast brings consistent humor, depth, and charm to Letizia’s stolid work. As a script and as a production, Eagle River simply doesn’t leave much to the imagination. –Nick Green