There are certain types of plays A Red Orchid does very well, and the searing, grasping comedy of working-class Brits is a genre this theater has down cold. Three London cabbies arrive at a shabby sports center for the big ping-pong—sorry, table tennis—tourney, but the distractions are many. “It’s a dog-eat-dog-turd world,” one of them says, and it’s a profound insight in their mindset. (Simon Block’s script is directed by Robin Witt.) Like the guys of “Ax Men” and “Deadliest Catch,” these are men being men, chaffing whenever the domestic intrudes. Eric is the dedicated family man with stress at home, and as played by Nigel Patterson, he is a wildly agreeable pain in the ass, tender yet harsh. Oscar is the lifelong bachelor and the ultimate enigma, and Daniel Rivkin’s performance leaves just enough out of focus. You never fully grasp what motivates this lone ranger, and that’s just as he would have it. Rounding out the trio is Bob Turton as Tony, the battered Labrador pup looking for approval as he soils the carpet. He is youngest of the men and the one with the most to lose on this night. All three are intense and tension-fueled, sweating with their tiny paddles and lobbing resentments across the room with a recklessness that is disquieting—and in all honesty, funnier than it should be. (Nina Metz)
At the Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 North Wells, (312)943-8722. This production is now closed.