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Johnny Red Was a Don't Bettor?

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Studio 108, at the Organic Theater Company Greenhouse Lab Theater.

Somewhere beneath this stilted, slow production is a darkly funny, if flawed, script about a pack of losers hanging out at a craps table waiting for a high roller named Johnny Red. But director Valerie Olney has filled the show with so many arch moments and meaningful pauses, accentuated by Robert G. Smith and Kevin Geiger's expressionistic lighting, that they crush the subtler touches in Paul Peditto's script--his hard-boiled wit, his stark but poetic dialogue, his eye for eccentric characters. And we're left with only his portentous, millennial themes: the world is a dark and dangerous place, everyone dies, and God does indeed play dice with the universe.

This would not be a lighthearted play under the best circumstances. Peditto's characters are all damaged goods, vainly trying, to quote the playbill, to buy "hope on credit." And those who aren't are in the equally noxious business of selling it. The play is structured as a series of dramatic monologues--some interesting, some diverting, some trivial--divided by sections of dialogue, during which the increasingly cranky characters spar and bitch and burn up time. Eventually it becomes clear that Johnny Red, like Godot and Lefty and Little Sheba, will never come. But by then we don't care.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Greg Nagan.

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