Credit: Courtesy Exit 63 Theatre

Exit 63 Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of Henry Murray’s inchoate 2009 imagining of an apocalyptic future in which three boys must playact something resembling a nuclear family. The play begins promisingly, with the three leads silently moving about the decrepit shack in which they spend their days. The walls are decorated with crumpled maps and other remnants from a society that has collapsed; the floor is littered with ripped-up shopping circulars and worn books. The boys only go out to forage at night because the sun now burns their skin. Trees fall outside their door constantly, and they’re wary of running into any other survivors for fear of being robbed or catching one of the diseases that ended civilization.

Their world is upended when they meet a girl while searching for food. The boy who had been playing the mother back in the shack (he wears a blond wig) falls for the newcomer, and everyone’s role in their tiny community comes into question.

On paper this is a provocative meditation on identity and what happens when people with no structure imposed on them must fashion their own society. Unfortunately, anytime anyone in this play opens his or her mouth, what comes out is either whining complaints or melodramatic bloviating. There’s an almost complete disconnect between how this play looks and how it sounds—director Connor Baty’s evocative set and David Goodman-Edberg’s lighting design are responsible for virtually all the dramatic resonance there is here. I spent three-quarters of the running time picturing what this play might have been rather than what it was.   v