Idle Threats, Hermit Theatre, at the Chicago Cultural Center. You have to like a playwright with the guts to explore the effect critics have on art and artists. In Idle Threats Idris Goodwin gives us a brilliant but spoiled movie critic (played with a beguiling understated irony by off-Loop veteran Beau O’Reilly) who pans a film by an unstable eastern European director without having seen it.

In the hands of a talented writer of farce, this ethical lapse and subsequent attempts to cover it up could have set in motion a marvelously funny screwball comedy. But Goodwin seems not to have recognized the comic potential in his story: even the quips the characters occasionally shoot at each other are bitter little pills. Instead he delivers a flat, somber two-and-a-half-hour play full of endless talk, in which the characters discuss what they’re like, what they’ve just done, or what they’re planning to do as soon as the scene ends. Almost nothing interesting happens; even a long-planned kidnapping occurs offstage.

Director Stefan Brun fills his production with lots of fascinating distractions, including a nearly continuous video backdrop. His casting is flawless; angular Ewa Boryczko is particularly wonderful, and a little scary, as the neurotic director. But there’s nothing Brun can do to give this sometimes preachy drama the illusion of a driving story.