DARK MATTER, Cave 76, at the O Bar & Cafe. In this psychological thriller Reader contributor and playwright Adam Langer explores the psychology of perception, filling the story of a failed art heist/forgery with surreal characters whose obsessions range from the bleak to the lyrical. Under Dan Torbica's direction, the three cast members perform an effective hybrid of naturalistic and ritualistic drama. The thriller's through line is provided by Helena, a traumatized, unemotional painter (played with blunt eloquence and impressive focus by Eileen Glenn) who's being used by a night watchman and a delivery man to act out their confusions and dreams. When Helena uses them just as coldly, the stream-of-consciousness drama becomes a little too pat and moralistic. But until Langer takes refuge in plot symmetry and violence, the play has moments of satisfying poetic and intellectual fancy.
The promising, tightly written interplay between the men's angry confessions and the painter's dispassionate testimony is particularly effective in discussions of the way we see and understand art, both inside and outside of galleries. Phrases and stories connect and disconnect with a disarming, brusque whimsy. Sense becomes nonsense, and nonsense becomes a bleak, psychotic mantra as earnestly persuasive as it is alienating--surrealism's victory in this play despite Langer's too-careful structural control. Zoran Zeravica's spare set design, essentially empty frames hung around the stage, establishes a dreamlike blank space for the characters, who labor through hopelessness to arrive at an enduring state of despair.