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You can count on Martin McDonagh’s brooding works, which skillfully blend dark humor with toxic violence, to crawl under your skin. In his newest play, a 2005 Broadway hit set in a totalitarian state, self-absorbed young writer Katurian Katurian gets hauled in for interrogation–and likely execution–when two local children have been killed in precise imitation of the child murders in his grisly stories. Amy Morton directs a stellar Chicago cast that finds nearly all the play’s morbid humor and works overtime to compensate for McDonagh’s uncharacteristic lack of coherence. Only the long final scene of act one rings false, stopping the play dead for a good half hour. But in the second act it regains steam, raising questions about an artist’s responsibility toward his darkest creative impulses that are well worth chewing over. a Through 11/12: Tue-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat-Sun 3 and 7:30 PM, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, downstairs theater, 1650 N. Halsted, 312-335-1650, $20-$60.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.