It is one thing when a play’s characters are ambiguous. It is quite another when the play itself is cryptic and impenetrable. Brett Neveu, an oft-produced local playwright who is gaining wider attention nationally and abroad, has never been one to spell things out nice and neat. His plays—cunning observations about normal people in very normal, if stressful, situations—are often just opaque enough to let your imagination wander in and poke around for a bit. In his latest work, “4 Murders,” in an awkward debut at A Red Orchid Theatre, that effect is thwarted by the play’s staunch refusal to explain itself. Through a series of four vaguely interconnected one-acts, we follow an unnervingly quiet serial killer (Lawrence MacGowan, who puts his soft, rumbly voice to good use here) as he meets with, and then calmly murders, four randomly chosen victims. There are no whys or what-fors—an omission that distracts from the quirky, potentially engrossing, free-associative conversations that precede each murder. Ultimately the play feels like the theatrical equivalent of a Rorschach test. It’s nearly impossible to make sense of the thing—no matter how you look at it, it’s all one big splotch. There is, however, a banal kind of poetry to these characters and director Guy Van Swearingen’s cast is entirely watchable, if somewhat tic-laden, in their performances. But the clunky set, lighting and sound design do these actors no favors. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.