The Locks, Hermit Arts, at the Loop Theater. Some artists use intricate or monumental frames to highlight scarcity and absence, throwing a piece’s minimalism into starker relief. But the strategy can backfire. Idris Goodwin’s new The Locks, about the destructive sibling rivalry between Venus and Odin Lock, is framed by Brett Neiman’s lobby installation, the “Locks Museum,” which documents its history. A breezily accurate parody of conceptual art, it may be intended as a metaphor for the emptiness of their competition or of the competitive impulse itself. But it comes off more like a dry riff on the emptiness of the play. Despite some skillfully slender, focusedly abstract characterizations, Goodwin’s script lingers too long in dramatic limbo and climaxes in action that’s only slightly less flat. And unfortunately the care devoted to the “anteroom” just raises the stakes on what ends up a losing bet.
Venus and Odin’s one-upmanship, if plausible in its particulars, remains at heart completely mysterious, the sole clues to its source being a distant father and absent mother. The backstory seems of small concern to Goodwin, who’s more interested in the muted mechanics of the sparring, but it’s hard to see what he’s getting at. Stefan Brun’s direction is fluid and assured, except for occasional overuse of a blackout device, and the cast give the nonrealistic but unmannered performances such material demands.