Burn: The Nowhere Hotshots vs. the Brain-Plant From Beyond the Moon Writer and director Peter Storey taps into his personal experience fighting forest fires for this experimental sci-fi poetry thriller. An elite squad of first responders dubbed “hotshots” are called to action when a sinister sentient plant wreaks havoc across the world by hooking humans on a smokable drug called Queen. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus among the cast of what the drug does, exactly, and the 15 actors, often blocked to be onstage simultaneously, understandably appear preoccupied with the task of finding space on Gorilla Tango’s cabaret-size stage. The inherent Starship Troopers camp factor of the premise goes unaccounted for; instead, it’s treated as deadly serious, and grunted, sometimes flat-out inaudible readings don’t help matters. —Dan Jakes
Eurydice In this version of the Orpheus myth, Eurydice is driven to the underworld in grief out of longing for her beloved father. Ruhl wrote the play thinking about her own dad, who had died ten years prior, and the many ways sadness and longing can be far more compelling—indeed, more beautiful—then the life and love before us in the moment. Ruhl gives her heroine a complex subjectivity, rendering the myth anew, a story for a generation of women who want to understand themselves apart from men. It’s a fascinating exploration, but while there are strengths in this Promethean Theatre Ensembleproduction—most notably, Sandy Elias as Father—Ruhl’s script deserves a tighter, faster-paced staging in keeping with the light, playful elegance of her words. —Suzanne Scanlon
Her America In Brett Neveu’s 2002 drama Eric LaRue, Kate Buddeke played a middle-aged woman psychologically battered by the condescending men (and a few women) in her life. Her only relief came in identifying with her sociopathic school-aged son, convincing herself the students he slaughtered Columbine style deserved what they got. It was gut-wrenching. In Neveu’s new one-woman show, written for Buddeke, she plays another middle-aged woman psychologically battered by the condescending men in her life, but this time she finds no relief. In fact her husband, after discovering her dark secret, sets the dogs on her and traps her in the basement. It’s a harrowing script, but under Linda Gillum’s direction, Buddeke uncharacteristically pulls her punches for 70 minutes, seeming more inconvenienced and irritated than traumatized. Her performance entertains when it might horrify. —Justin Hayford
The Library With echoes of the distorted stories about victims Cassie Bernall (who was killed) and Valeen Schnurr that were propagated in the wake of the 1994 Columbine massacre, Scott Z. Burns’s 2014 drama imagines a sophomore waking up wounded from one crisis to find herself in the crosshairs of another when questions about her relationship to the shooter as well as testimony from other students suggesting that she was forced to reveal other victims’ hiding place make her a pariah. Clinical but wrenching, Burns’s script unfolds a Job-level tragedy all the more chilling for its plausibility in these times. The cast in this inaugural Level 11 Theatre production, directed by Logan Hulick, often swings broad, but there are some astutely captured moments here. —Dan Jakes
Prelude to a Kiss Craig Lucas’s 1990 meditation on love and mortality needs a cast of strong, subtle performers to reveal its deeper tones; otherwise it comes off as a sitcom about two quirky lovers who fall into the kookiest mess at their wedding when the bride switches souls with a strange old man. Sadly, director Derek Bertelsen fills his revival with a bunch of loud, laugh-hungry actors who rip the heart out of the play (but still fail to get laughs). Only Bethany Hart seems at home as the possessed bride—and her finesse makes everyone else seem that much more cloddish. —Jack Helbig
The Sundial Paul Edwards’s faithful adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s cunningly misanthropic 1958 novel strikes a shrewd balance between grotesque absurdity (Gloria, a teenage family visitor to the Halloran clan’s fading manse, sees apocalyptic visions in an heirloom mirror only when it’s smeared with olive oil) and droll menace (the Hallorans’ kleptocratic matriarch, Orianna, welcomes humanity’s extinction by turning into a midcentury Catherine the Great). While the uneven performances and graceless set give the production a persistent clunkiness, the coy spitefulness and well-tailored paranoia nicely evoke Jackson’s postwar worldview. And once in a while it does the soul good to ponder whether any quarter of humankind deserves to be spared from the fiery furnace.
Two Sharp Knives, Women, Politics, and Murder Dashiell Hammett stories get the gender-bending treatment in this Clock production, which bills itself as “theatre noir.” The politician/contractor mysteriously murdered in the pulpy original is recast as a woman in CJ Chapman’s adaptation—same for the private dick on the case, and the detective sergeant, etc etc. This would all be well and good did it not lead to lines like “a simple case of she said/she said.” The transition music, costumes, and lighting are a three-pronged assault of bad taste, and the only nod to traditional film noir is the deployment of a rather noisy fog machine.
What of the Night? The title comes from Isaiah, but it’s Maria Irene Fornés who does the prophecying in this collection of four one-acts. A sordid family saga, Fornés’s tale starts in 1938, with mama Nadine scraping through the Depression by turning tricks while Charlie, her simple-minded eldest, steals for a brutal, Fagin-like fence. Skip next to 1958 and Nadine’s sweet, needy daughter Rainbow, who finds herself in mom’s line of work despite America’s postwar boom. Then it’s on to the years between 1968 and 1983, when wised-up Ray, whom Nadine gave up for adoption, is happy to get (literally) fucked in the ass for entry into the upper classes. Finally, Fornés offers us a peek into the dystopian future following a societal meltdown. Through it all, the enduring values are cruelty, scarcity, exploitation, and weaponized love. Carlos Murillo’s staging for Stage Left and Cor theaters features some solid performances (especially by Miguel Nuñez as the Fagin), striking images, and pacing that makes the three-hour running time move well. But when the action drops below a certain height—characters sitting on the floor, say—only the first row can see. —Tony Adler