Brett Neveu’s newest play (in a world premiere at A Red Orchid) gently suggests you choose your own interpretation of the contents therein. It’s not entirely clear what the play is about; Neveu isn’t offering pat answers, at any rate. Don’t take that as a drawback, but don’t walk in expecting a tidy narrative, either. Over the span of ninety minutes, the scenes cut back and forth between a training center that preps American travelers for the possibility of kidnapping overseas, and a coffee shop where the would-be victims—three women, professional types—meet during training breaks. In a broad sense, the play deals with the underlying feeling of a world gone crazy since 9/11, but Neveu is more specific in his focus. All politics are local, and I suppose all problems are local, too. Unless there is a terrorist directly in your face, it’s more likely that your own personal guilt, fury and life dissatisfaction will churn your stomach in knots. Is there such a thing as a tragedy of manners? Consider the things we do to one another in the name of polite conversation. The judgments that get passed off as friendly advice; the probing questions that imply there’s something wrong with you if you don’t want to share. The coffee klatch as a game of human Pac-Man—your fellow Americans as giant orbs with jaws that never stop flapping. At least, that’s what I got out of the show, directed by Edward Sobel with precise attention to Neveu’s banal rhythms of speech. The three women are terrific: Kirsten Fitzgerald, who is perfectly too loud and too much in her orange sherbet sweater poncho; Jennifer Engstrom, a brittle, high-strung yuppie in stiletto pumps; and Mierka Girten, whose buttoned-up, quiet personality masks a suppressed, thundering of rage. Everything is a digression, but there are two mini-anecdotes tucked in the script—one about a rape and murder at a nursing home, the other about a rabid dog attack—and couched within the play’s larger ambiguity, these monologues emerge as bright beacons of storytelling. (Nina Metz)
At A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 North Wells, (312)943-8722. This production is now closed.