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Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
Adam Rapp's new play, Faster, is having its world premiere during the week when memories of the attack on the twin towers are foremost in everyone's mind. It's a time that may have you looking to the theater for something to lift your spirit. If so, Faster, is not the ticket.
Rapp's play and Darrell Larson's direction make for a relentlessly grim and aggressively "out there" two hours. Besides nudity that includes masturbation and an unfunny bit seemingly borrowed from Puppetry of the Penis you can expect second hand smoke (hard to escape in a theater this small).
Unlike Rapp's first play, Nocturne, which was rich in poetic language, his characters here have a vocabulary that's insistently raw. The director seems to have gone out of his way to intensify this with all manner of gritty touches, especially for the character played by Chris Messina
All this in your face stuff might warrant no more than a caveat for conventional theater goers if Faster were a really good play. However, while it is more a play structurally than the beautifully written but novelistic Nocturne, it falls many a notch below topnotch.
Mr. Rapp sets up an apocalypse now situation in which three homeless, uneducted men in their late teens are living a subhuman existence in the basement of a nameless condemned building (probably Chicago). Two of the boys, Kitchen (Mtume Gant) and Skram (Chris Messina), are small-time hoods. A third boy named Stargyl (Robert Beitzel), who crouches at the edge of the stage playing with some toy soldiers even before the play begins, turns out to be Skram's mute and apparently retarded brother. But don't look for anything resembling brotherly love here. Skram teases and tortures the frightened Stargyl and constantly refers to him (and anyone else, for that matter) as"Nigger."
The drama, at least the first half, seems to be borrowed from such well-known sources as Beckett's Waiting for Godot , Pinter's The Dumbwaiter and Albee's Zoo Story. The playwright has set up a situation that has this trio from the lower depths nervously waiting for the arrival of a man who is supposed to buy a little girl they kidnapped and now keeping prisoner in an off-stage room. That little girl, like the narrator's little sister in Nocturne, is the catalyst for the second act in which the ultra-realistic first act turns into a surreal muddle.
The actors throw themselves full throttle into their unpleasant roles. Messina's Skram is so debased that he makes Gant's religion infatuated Kitchen likeable by contrast. Beitzel is excellent as the catatonic Stargyl and Roy Thinnes' Man (as in madman) brings the kidnap situation to an absurdist finale, complete with biblical implications. Oh, there's also Fallen McDevitt Brooking as the little girl who makes two brief appearance, the last one accounting for the program's listing a puppet consultant.
David Korins has designed a wonderfully eerie deserted basement, made even eerier by Jeff Croiter's lighting. Yet, despite these praiseworthy qualities and moments of real dramatic tension, Faster, is a disappointing play from a writer who seems capable of much more. Hopefully, he will fulfill that promise with Trueblinka, another world premiere scheduled to open later this month at the Maverick Theatre.
Nocturne by Adam Rapp
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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