European Repertory Company.

Imagine an existential drama called Dahmer, in which the playwright treats his eponymous protagonist as a true poet who is driven to destroy by the same unconscious impulses that drive an artist to create. This conceit ain’t that far from Bernard-Marie Koltes’ Roberto Zucco, which views the crimes of the notorious titular psychopath, who murdered his mother and father among others, with equal parts sympathy and indifference. For the late French playwright, Zucco was a figure of uncommon beauty, a purer version of ourselves; his crimes are our secret fantasies.

Offensive as this view may be to some, the main flaw here is not one of ideology but of originality. Translated by DePaul French professor Pascale-Anne Brault and some of her students, Roberto Zucco plays like a soulless Hamlet filtered through French existentialism but without Sartre’s and Camus’ wit. One of the few times this European Repertory Company production soars is during an eerie little passage in French; most of the rest feels earthbound.

Yasen Peyankov, directing an uneven cast ranging from scenery-chewing amateurs to accomplished professionals, tries to even things out by eliciting one-dimensional performances in one of three categories: (a) coolly sarcastic and indifferent, (b) broadly comic, or (c) sad and desperate. The European-trained performers seem to have a better handle on the material, though even Dale Goulding’s well-articulated Zucco grows dull. I was worried about being angered and appalled, but that would’ve been better than just plain bored.