At first glance Brett Neveu’s new play looks like yet another ripped-from-the-headlines docudrama: a troubled college freshman submits a disturbingly violent first-person story to his fiction-writing class, consequently pitting an adjunct professor’s insistence on the student’s free-speech rights against the college president’s need to protect his institution’s reputation. (The story is based on a 2003 incident at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University.) But when the student turns out to be an Iraq war vet and a military criminal psychologist shows up to investigate the possibility of war crimes–among other things–Harmless becomes a Mametian cat-and-mouse game full of ethical ambiguities and sickening betrayals. It takes director Edward Sobel a while to get his three-person cast up to speed in this TimeLine production, a world premiere, but once he does he turns 55 minutes of stage time into an engrossing and harrowing ride. a Through 3/18: Thu-Fri 8 PM, Sat 4 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, Wed 2/21-3/14, 8 PM, TimeLine Theatre Company, Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, Baird Hall Theatre, 615 W. Wellington (courtyard entrance), 773-281-8463, $15-$25.