The Invasion of Desire and the Resistance to that Invasion and The Nowhow (and How to Now! It), Curious Theatre Branch and Theater Three, at the Lunar Cabaret. Mickle Maher’s background as a member of Theater Oobleck and other experimental groups is enough in itself to suggest that the playwright-performer is something of a tease. His complex, meandering monologue The Invasion of Desire and the Resistance to That Invasion, about a frustrated would-be accountant for a perpetually bankrupt theater company, seems practically designed to puzzle. Carefully unfolding his character’s tragic downward spiral–an operetta based on the life of Spiro Agnew fails, and a pathological girlfriend embezzles the box-office receipts–Maher offers no easy outs. Dressed in a cumbersome winter parka, he exposes little of himself as a performer. Though the script has an impressive depth, Maher’s gestures and movements are relatively simple–which proves to be an effective technique. Even after an hour, Maher’s gifted wordplay and deadpan delivery leave you hungry for more.

By contrast Jenny Magnus’s performance piece The Nowhow (and How to Now! It) is almost pure physicality. Keeping dialogue to a bare minimum, she creates an abstract symphony of unrelated sounds and images–jumping rope, dueling in mock gunfights, and engaging in solo slapstick. It’s fascinating to watch her dart around the stage in defiance of theatrical conventions, but her delivery is less than subtle. The Nowhow makes some incisive commentary on short attention spans, but Magnus herself often seems a little too distracted. –Nick Green