Nocturne, Naked Eye Theatre Company, at the Storefront Theater. Playwright and novelist Adam Rapp’s dark monologue isn’t easy to like. Admirably compact, its subject’s weight makes it feel long, and except for some East Village color that feels pretty forced, it’s relentlessly unsentimental–though the PR brags about exhilaration and recovery, sorrow and horror are what’s mostly on hand. Director Jeremy B. Cohen hasn’t done much to soften the script’s blows, giving his star nothing more to work with than a chair and a smattering of spectral sound and light cues. But Lance Baker’s piercing, superlative performance turns each difficulty into dramatic gold.

The story–young artist accidentally kills sister; family implodes; artist flees family and old life for NYC exile–is at its best when upping the tragedy to absurd levels. Current hot property Rapp is every bit the formidable lyricist the hype would have you believe, and he clearly has an accomplished sense of structure and flow, but whenever the trauma lets up for long his writing about writing gets dangerously fussy. His uncompromising evocation of loss, however, never succumbs to romanticism or bombast, and Baker’s coldly anguished portrayal fits it perfectly. The revelatory moments play out with neither a bang nor whimper but rather something like the impossible noise from The Cherry Orchard, the sound of hollow collapse within hollow collapse. Quietly, singularly harrowing.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ru Robbins.