MANUFRACTURE, Strawdog Theatre Company. A strong contender for worst play of the year (I can’t speak for the millennium), this derivative new work by New York playwright Anne DeMare goes nowhere loudly and tediously, wasting its large cast and the audience’s attention.

Indebted to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine to the point of artistic bankruptcy, DeMare’s absurdist torture depicts without a shred of humor or pathos the nameless workers in an abandoned but still functioning factory. For the first 20 minutes her hapless proles exhibit some intriguing quirks, but these can’t sustain the play. Hoping someone will relieve the ritualistic repetition and ennui of the assembly line and their clueless conversation, they slurp coffee, get lost in the mill’s labyrinth, and encounter the Four Horsemen, idiots who seem just as lost as they are.

Intentionally boring an audience is a crime. DeMare’s dreary dialogue and hokey crises are more than matched by the infantile obviousness of Kirsten Kelly’s staging. The 14 actors are full of sound and fury signifying nothing: they don’t do anything remotely interesting, except fall on the floor repeatedly (which couldn’t have been a pleasant experience in the last act, when the stage was covered with dirty water and coffee). Still, Manufracture is wiser than it knows: at the end the audience experiences the escape the characters seek in vain. Sometimes art makes life feel so good. –Lawrence Bommer