Next month on the History Channel, Chicago actor Dan Kuhlman appears as Timothy McVeigh in a documentary about the Oklahoma City bombing. The resemblance is there—the thin, unforgiving lips on that otherwise nondescript face, the clenched jaw, the reed-thin body. It’s a physicality that Kuhlman uses to great effect in an entirely different sort of psychotic performance in “The Fastest Clock in the Universe,” the London-set nightmare about a pair of men—roommates, kinda lovers and clawing enemies—and the trap they set for an unsuspecting young chap. It’s all very Pinter-meets-Tarantino, which sounds cheesier than it is in this very good, very consuming production at A Red Orchid Theatre. Surly and menacing, Cougar (Kuhlman, decked out like Brando in “The Wild One”) knows he’s thuggishly attractive and is obsessed with preserving the illusion of youth. “I could have a gut full of maggots so long as I have a suntan,” he says, summing up his philosophy in life. A sunlamp and a little hair dye usually do the trick, along with the help of his enabling roommate-cum-bitch, Captain (Larry Neumann, Jr. in a unnerving, mincing turn). Together, they fake yet another nineteenth birthday party as a charade to lure Cougar’s latest (and unsuspecting) one-night stand named Foxtrot Darling (James McKay). The scheme has worked brilliantly before, but this time the birthday cake hits the fan when Foxtrot’s cheeky fiancée (Katlyn Carlson with glitter on her cheeks) shows up unannounced. As directed by Dado, a funny-sour-scary quality permeates the production, pointing the way to an inevitable chaos of violence. And even though you know it’s coming, the buildup is one hell of a ride. (Nina Metz)
A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 North Wells, (312)943-8722. Thu-Sat 8pm/Sun 7pm. $14-$20. Through December 12.