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The Love of a Good Man

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THE LOVE OF A GOOD MAN, Clock Productions, at National Pastime Theater. A warning to the uninitiated: radical British playwright Howard Barker can go on for what seems an eternity. He doesn't believe in shying away from controversy or editing his politicized tracts: his The Ecstatic Bible (2000) clocked in at more than six hours. The Love of a Good Man is a cunning 1980 effort in which a dozen British citizens struggle to memorialize their fallen countrymen two years after the end of World War I. A modest two and a half hours, it vacillates wildly between nihilism, painstaking historical recapitulation, and Victorian parlor comedy.

The set design, by director David Storms Denman, is magnificent: he transforms the decrepit National Pastime space into a vividly ugly bomb-ravaged cityscape. But his tepid staging is at cross-purposes with Barker's script. The production is disquieting in all the wrong ways: Denman attempts to make the play accessible by setting an even, almost numbing pace while his eager-to-please ensemble of 12 mangles a dozen different dialects of the King's English. One disgruntled patron spent the final 30 minutes of the show unwrapping candy and loudly intoning, "Shit, I can't leave the theater!" Not very tactful, but I was with her in spirit.

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