Mojo, Chemically Imbalanced Comedy and Beyond That, at MethaDome Theatre. After receiving its U.S. premiere at Steppenwolf in 1996, Jez Butterworth’s Olivier Award-winning dark comedy returns to Chicago in a kinetic, pile-driving staging by Justin Thornburgh. In this unedifying tale, set in 1958, a bunch of louts try to keep the title to a seedy Soho rock club after the owner gets cut in half. Loudmouthed losers, they can’t make a move without double-crossing or undercutting one another, and by the ugly end they’ve messed up in ways they’re too stupid ever to have imagined.
Even more ass-kicking than the Steppenwolf premiere (which was staged by original London director Ian Rickson), Thornburgh’s production explodes with a confrontational hysteria, the actors’ rapid-fire delivery raising the stakes in every scene. As Baby, the volatile, dangerous son of the murdered boss, Todd Roth chillingly conveys psychopathic abandon. Christopher B.B. Warloe and Michael Emmett Piotrowski bring vaudeville timing and gallows humor to Butterworth’s goofball caricatures of two bumbling plotters. Matt Smulski is solid as the seemingly sympathetic manager, and Joe Brcak as faithful, doomed Skinny is a punching bag. The cast’s British accents, coached by Laura Ciresi, are so accurate that unfortunately the script’s slang is hard to follow. Mojo remains an exercise in brilliant screaming, but given this much energy it justifies every excess.