The scenario for Andrew Case’s play “Pacific” sounds like it came from a playwriting kit. A youngish yuppie couple (Robert’s a lawyer for a cell-phone company, Susan’s an academic), struggling with the death of their child, face the arrival of Susan’s brother Anderson, a designer of abattoirs who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. By the end of the evening, some terrible truths are revealed, and Susan makes a fateful decision. But the sense of dutiful plodding that Case’s script occasionally creates is utterly belied by this superlative production at Steppenwolf’s Garage. Brain Hamm as Anderson and James Krag as Robert each display by turns their characters’ skills at performing their lives (Anderson as brutally honest outcast, Krag as smoothly persuasive decency), along with an occasional terror that they are trapped within these performances. Rebecca Spence’s Susan is riveting, a woman who is fighting to emerge from a tsunami of grief and guilt and who is visibly losing that struggle. Spence manages to convey Susan’s bewilderment at the inefficacy of her attempts to think her way out of her trauma: she often seems to be thinking three thoughts at once, unable to catch hold of any of them. And Molly Regan’s direction exploits the intimacy of the Garage space, punctuating the thrashing interactions of these characters with moments of stillness eloquent and heartbreaking in their wordlessness. (John Beer)
“Pacific” plays at Steppenwolf Garage Theatre, 1650 North Halsted, (312)335-1650, through March 27.