As plays inspired by French theory go, David Isaacson’s “Letter Purloined” employs an admirably light touch. Isaacson’s put “Othello,” Edgar Allen Poe and Lacan into a blender, and then put the results into another blender: each performance of “Letter Purloined” features a new arrangement of the play’s twenty-six scenes. The ultimate effect owes as much to the Oulipo as to post-structuralism. It’s a play primarily about play, which leaves its evocations of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia feeling out of place. Unlike the shadows of the Holocaust in Georges Perec, for instance, the Yugoslavian material functions only as one more element to riff on, leading to a thin, “only Kofi Annan can save us now” response to real horror. That caveat aside, Theater Oobleck’s production is frequently captivating, full of nice touches like the color-coding of quilt to costume. And the variable structure allows both serendipity, as scenes that mirror one another happen to fall sequentially, and disorienting surprises. Oobleck’s no-director rule leads to wide variations in the performances: Isaacson’s malevolent King Navodar and Kat McJimsey’s inquisitorial Ordina most successfully embody the cartoonish spirit of the play, though Colm O’Reilly’s turn as Cassio, able to communicate only by mimicking a toy synthesizer, has a sad and strange dignity. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.