WAR STORIES: A CHRONOLOGY OF A CRACK ADDICT, TinFish Theatre. Shock value can be a powerful but dangerous theatrical tool. Overindulge in it and you risk alienating your audience, as Alberto Finetti does in his virtual taxonomy of acts of sexual and physical violence, leaving little to the imagination. Any potential impact is blunted by mind-numbing repetition: by the play’s end we’re so desensitized to the brutality of Finetti’s story, which assumes a predictable rhythm, that it takes on an almost comical tone.

Too bad, since War Stories seems to provide fertile ground. As we know from William S. Burroughs, Jim Carroll, and countless other writers, accounts of drug addiction can be absolutely harrowing. But the script’s antihero–an unrepentant, amoral junkie–is modeled closely on one of the playwright’s former friends, and Finetti’s secondhand stories and third-party ironic distance simply can’t provide that essential element of truth.

The script is also an absolute wreck: Finetti’s leaps in time and logic, one-dimensional characterizations, and B-movie dialogue constitute the sort of stumbling blocks even the best actors can’t handle. Director Laurie Anne Kladis’s cast are clearly not up to the challenge, but they try hard. And their almost monumental efforts give the play some semblance of a backbone, however brittle and flimsy.

–Nick Green