FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID, Stage Left Theatre. Polish science-fiction writer Stanislaw Lem once remarked that Philip K. Dick’s stories were great even though, like so many American sci-fi tales, they were trash. Certainly Dick was the ultimate hack, writing three dozen novels and hundreds of short stories, many of them while on amphetamines, before his death in 1982. But something, in his later works at least, transcended Dick’s roots in the pulpiest of fiction–a riveting paranoid narrative style or a hypersensitive awareness of the myriad ways the media-saturated modern world drives us crazy.

Even the best adaptations of his work–like Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner–focus on his unsettling tone and frankly melodramatic stories. So you can imagine how little of what makes Dick great survives in Linda Hartinian’s messy, arty, fragmented stage version of his moody meditation on consensus reality and the growing police state–especially in this ugly, noisy, tin-eared Stage Left production, full of under- and overacting. Beatrice Bosco directs, with little apparent understanding of Dick’s novel or of how to re-create his sincere dystopian vision without making it seem a silly camp farce. Of the show’s 11 actors, only Marguerite Hammersley hits the right note as a stylish but flipped-out chemical dependent. Whenever she steps onstage, the production comes together; whenever she leaves, it falls apart. Sadly, her character is offstage more than on, with predictable results.

–Jack Helbig