Bluff, Victory Gardens Theater. Without a doubt, former Chicago resident Jeffrey Sweet's latest work is an exceptionally well crafted piece of theater, a testament to his continued skill as a playwright. Like Flyovers--which received its world premiere at Victory Gardens two seasons ago--Bluff showcases Sweet's remarkable knack for balancing scathingly funny one-liners with realistic, gut-wrenching dialogue. And his story--a young couple fall in love while aiding the victim of a gay bashing and later watch powerlessly as their relationship crumbles at the hands of an unlikely interloper--is one of the most gritty, unsentimental tales to hit a Chicago stage in a long time.

But then Sweet allows his actors to step out of character to offer ironic commentary on the play's events, adding fourth-wall-breaking tactics to this otherwise tightly wound dark comedy. Sweet's metatheatrical musings might have found a happier place within the characters' dialogue; as it stands now, those musings are often simply a distraction.

Hollywood imports Jon Cryer and Sarah Trigger bring great depth to star-crossed lovers Neal and Emily, but it's Tim Grimm as the crass dental-supplies salesman Gene who really speeds the play to its conclusion: the show absolutely belongs to him. --Nick Green

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