RAISED IN CAPTIVITY, Circle Theatre. If Nicky Silver had written a play about a gay man trying to overcome the numbness that’s afflicted him for the 11 years since his lover died, he might have given the American theater a compelling story. Of course, that would require the hard work of creating a believable, psychologically complex world. So instead Silver creates one human being–Sebastian, a gay man living through “emotional and sexual celibacy”–and surrounds him with grossly overwritten cartoons: a wacky, self-loathing psychologist who pokes out her eyes in an act of penance and becomes a wandering religious zealot; a wacky, self-loathing sister who sings “This Could Be the Start of Something Big” at their mother’s funeral; and her wacky, self-loathing husband, who abandons his dentistry practice, barricades himself in the house, and becomes a full-time painter–but uses only white paint so he “won’t screw up.” With no possibility for recognizable humanity amid this torrent of overwrought witlessness, Silver must shut the play down entirely every now and then to allow Sebastian a poignant moment or two.

Given the forced, cloying material, it’s remarkable how compellingly human some moments in director Ty Perry’s production are. Headed by a shaded, assured performance from Keith Eric Davis as Sebastian, Perry’s cast nobly keep the high jinks to a minimum, struggling to give Raised in Captivity the ring of truth. They can’t possibly succeed, of course, but the effort is commendable.

–Justin Hayford