BLISSFIELD, Victory Gardens Theater. Victory Gardens may be in turmoil after the recent rift between its board of directors and its artistic staff, which threatened to tear the company apart, but it seems nothing can shake the company's commitment to meek, soft-focus, bland plays. Blissfield, Douglas Post's new "American mystery," is the kind of chatty, meandering washout that's become sadly typical in recent years. A seasoned foreign correspondent, played by the likable Kevin Gudahl, returns to his small Illinois hometown of Blissfield after a socially progressive mayoral candidate is found dead, an apparent suicide. Reluctantly the journalist begins an investigation, only to find guilt etched across the faces of the town's most respected civic leaders.
It's a fine premise, but as is typical of Post's plays, nearly everything happens in the past tense, as characters gather for no urgent reason to stare into the middle distance and recall events that might have been dramatic had they unfolded onstage. With no compelling present, Post can generate neither suspense nor credibility. Yet he wants us to believe that a handful of businessmen might have committed murder to stop a low-income housing project from opening in town. Under Dennis Zacek's workmanlike direction, the play dawdles along for two and a half hours, leaving Gudahl to try to generate all the excitement Post left out of his script.