Private Eyes, Sliced Bread Productions, at the Acme Theater. Steven Dietz’s deeply flawed black comedy gets a blemished once-over in Sliced Bread’s sincere but emotionally hollow production, which wastes a terrifically talented cast. Using the device of a play within a play within a play, Dietz recounts in often confusing terms the story of Matthew and his wife, Lisa, actors and lovers who circle each other in a wary dance of shifting emotions. But what is the reality underlying their feelings? Is Lisa having an affair with British director Adrian, or is that just a part of the play being rehearsed?

Dietz’s weak examination of such issues as marital fidelity, the search for truth, and relationship mind games provides easy if messy motivations for the actors to scream, cry, kiss, and rant at one another. Eschewing linear narrative in favor of flashbacks, flash-forwards, direct addresses to the audience, shifts in narrator, and other twists (many of which the playwright drops with the indecisiveness of a kid in a candy store), Dietz goes through a lot to say very little. And under the slow hand of director William Bullion, there are no romantic sparks or convincing angry exchanges.

Still, the cast handles this convoluted material with sturdy poise. Jeremy Sklar as Matthew has a smirk that says ten things at once, and his hot tears and inquisitive eyes give every word a boost. As a female therapist named Frank, newcomer Kila Kitu has a powerful presence.

–Erik Piepenburg