According to their mission statement, big ideas, bold language and beautiful performances are Broken Compass Theatre Company’s raison d’etre. As evidenced by writers Greg Beam and Eric Poulin’s “The Bloody Romantic, ” their robust and engrossing new play, two out of three ain’t bad. Involving a trio of sexually and emotionally promiscuous gay and straight twentysomethings whose only consistency is their inconsistent feelings of fear, fascination and desperate need for each other and sex (not necessarily in that order), the play is reminiscent of the lightly comedic yet sexually intense works of nineteenth-century Austrian dramatist Arthur Schnitzler as if he had been adapted and translated for a twenty-first-century sensibility by controversial playwright Neil LaBute. Essentially, the plot can be distilled to that of a guy screwing a girl in the same bed he shares with another guy, and the chaos that ensues for all affected. But psychologically speaking, there is not a lot of penetration here and the play imparts little; its “big” ideas amounting to little more than a brief deconstruction of filmmaker Woody Allen’s artistic output, along with the familiar tropes surrounding the topics of fidelity and sexual insatiability. Still, it’s notable for its witty one-liners, rich metaphors (the obvious gastronomic references are enjoyably suggestive throughout), satirical voyeurism and streak of misogyny. It’s also not afraid to dip its toes into absurdist waters with a finale that, if awkwardly sitting alongside the rest of the wildly fantastic yet naturalistic scenes, surprises with the unexpected. Whatever its technical shortcomings, there are superb and self-assured performances throughout: Katlyn Carlson is ferocious as an adulteress behaving badly with another man’s man; Brian Kilborn finds real moments as a passive-aggressive nebbish; James Errico is deliciously unctuous as a predatory corporate shark and Greg Beam as a morally ambiguous and philandering gay husband finds just the right balance between sincerity and manipulation. This troupe may bill themselves as the “Broken Compass” theater company but if this debut is any indication, artistically speaking they seem to be confidently headed north. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago, (773)772-0172. Thu-Sat 8pm/Sun 7pm. $10-$15. Through Aug 20.