What is it with Craig Wright? Again and again, the playwright and TV writer (“Six Feet Under”) plants himself smack dab in the middle of exasperation-land, a fictional place where the women refuse to take any shit and the men, oh those poor, shaggy pathetic men, they just can’t seem to get it together. There’s Nate, “Six Feet Under”‘s resident bump-on-a-log. There’s David, the solipsistic, unfaithful husband in “Orange Flower Water” (seen at the Steppenwolf Garage last fall). And there’s Peter, the equally infuriating pud in “The Pavilion,” whose mildly irrational behavior is currently on view in a strongly executed Gift Theatre production directed by John Gawlik at Victory Gardens. It is the twenty-year high-school reunion for the class of ’84, and the “cutest senior couple” meets again for the first time in two decades. Things didn’t end so well back when they were seventeen. It seems that Peter (Paul D’Addario, played with just the right amount of vague immaturity) hightailed it out of town after graduation, leaving his pregnant girlfriend Kari (Lynda Newton, whose strained smiles and barely suppressed anger is as raw as red meat) alone and humiliated. Yeah, that’ll probably make things a little tense. Peter is looking for a reconciliation—perhaps more. And Wright makes it clear why that can never happen: Because things got fucked up beyond all recognition. And then you move on. A narrator (Brendan Donaldson) serves as a reunion guide for the audience, and he brings to mind a young, eager professor-type with his shirtsleeves rolled up. “This is the way the universe begins,” he says grandly. And then, “Christ is born, and then a second later is nailed to a tree.” That’s Wright’s sense of humor for you—dry, sacrilegious and usually pretty funny. Donaldson also portrays numerous classmates at the reunion, including one who works at a suicide hotline: “I get people, they’re so weird I just hang up.” Now that’s funny. (Nina Metz)
“The Pavilion” plays at Victory Gardens Theater, 2257 North Lincoln, (773)871-3000, through September 5.