SINS OF THE FATHER, SummerNITE, at the Theatre Building. Written and performed earlier this year by Northern Illinois University students in Dublin, Ireland, this show is presented here with most of the original cast intact. And this 90-minute piece about intolerance in an unnamed police state is very much an evening of student theater. The ensemble is made up of current or recent students at NIU who may not perform flawlessly but who sometimes make up for that with their energy and enthusiasm. Performance skills vary wildly, from the highly competent–Melissa Kapp is especially fine as the play’s beleaguered protagonist–to the awful. The men in particular confuse bellowing with emoting.

The weakest element of the show, however, is Irish playwright Martin Maguire’s vague, histrionic, intentionally fragmented script. Aiming for high drama, he plays the melodrama card again and again until the audience is numb. Maguire’s characters can’t go for a cup of tea without stumbling over someone from their past or making a terrible discovery that turns their lives upside down. It doesn’t help that they speak mostly in cliches (“Let him live his own life!”). And when they don’t, they use an odd, stilted version of English reminiscent of the aliens’ lines on the original Star Trek.

–Jack Helbig