Underground, Rhinoceros Theater Festival, at the Lunar Cabaret. The protagonist of Abby Sher’s play is out to fight not City Hall but the U.S. Post Office–and all because a clerk refused to refund the money he claims a stamp machine stole from him. His actual retaliation is as petty as his loss, but obsession with this injustice and a desire for vengeance fester in his soul until they bring about his ruin.
Underground purports to be “based loosely” on Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground. And theatergoers familiar with the novella will perhaps have an easier time grasping this adaptation’s more puzzling elements: a book signing by the author of a volume on George Wallace, a landlady who wears only evening clothes, an unspecified skin disease afflicting our crusader. But the story of a little man fighting the establishment is universal, whether our sympathies lie with the humble citizen bent on exercising his rights or with the innocent employees victimized by his self-righteous vendetta.
Amy Ludwig directs a stylish production starring virtuoso ranter Richard Cotovsky as the hapless hero and Amy Warren as the prostitute he rescues despite himself. Enhanced by T.J. Jagodowski’s witty score, this staging also features an imaginative set attributed to Paul Tamney and one “David BeeBimBop”: among other delights it includes a bathtub–actually a packing box–filled with Styrofoam popcorn. Underground may be equally disposable in the end, but it makes for an engaging 90 minutes.
–Mary Shen Barnidge