Sacramento, CA 95816
It’s billed as sex, politics and satire, and the Capital Stage production of John Patrick Shanley’s most recent play lives up to that promise fully—although the satire grows absurd pretty quickly in the second half, it’s extremely dark and dysfunctional throughout.
What begins as a warped pas de deux between the bitter Brutus (Scott Coopwood) and the apparently naive Wanda (Stephanie Gularte) rapidly escalates into a full-fledged war (allegorically, at least). Sensitive theater-goers ought to be aware that Shanley pulls no punches; when sex and manipulation are invoked, it’s violent. The first act is rambunctious and confusing, with a whirlwind of political ideas and sling-shot dialogue that is then suddenly thrust into the miasma of sexuality and domination. Outstanding performances from Cooperwood and Gularte make the first act work, but it’s emotionally draining.
Fortunately, the play’s more farcical and absurd elements kick in early in the second act. In addition to new revelations from Coopwood and Gularte, there’s a passable (if exaggerated) Red-state turn from Harry Harris (Frank), while Timothy Orr’s Brit (Watson) in search of a return to empire complicate and enliven Shanley’s outrageous political critique. If you think you know dysfunction, think again. For co-dependence and sick thrills, nothing compares to the geopolitics of the Middle East. Just open a newspaper. That’s a dirty story.