With Love in Your Arms and a Knife in Your Heart, O Theater, Rhinoceros Theater Festival, at Curious Theatre Branch (Note: Next show Saturday, September 13). At the bottom of this show’s one-page program is a statement of the O Theater’s mission: to “reinvigorate theater by exploring its ritual process.” In my experience, all too often such an intent produces insufferable, endless productions insensitive to the audience’s needs. What is it about the impulse to explore ritual processes that makes companies forget drama also has to be interesting?

This show–a two-hour acting exercise with no intermission–may have been a blast to rehearse, but it isn’t much fun to watch. Performed in an arch, intensely physical, slow-motion style, it seems at times a parody of bad theater. But the actors are way too sincere for that, and the story they’re performing–Joe Meno’s pulpy one-act about a washed-up boxer–hardly seems deserving of such treatment. In fact Carey Friedman’s staging works against Meno’s script, which luxuriates in the trashy conventions of B-movie noir: we get to see in excruciating detail every dead cliche in Meno’s self-consciously hackneyed plot.

There are a number of strong performances, however, especially Ed Dzialo’s original take on that threadbare character, the much-abused boxer in the midst of an existential crisis.