Down the Road, Sun Partners, Inc., at the Theatre Building, and Frump Tucker Theatre Company, at Angel Island. When do those who profit from our fascination with violence become accessories to the crimes they claim to deplore? This is the question posed in Lee Blessing's Down the Road, in which a husband-wife team of journalists find their marriage torn apart as they interview a serial killer motivated, one of them suspects, solely by a hunger for the attention they're now providing. Though Blessing's exploration of this irony is anything but subtle, the play has proven nearly irresistible to actors and directors bent on Making a Statement, which may account for the anomaly of not one but two productions of the play opening within 24 hours of each other.
The first of these--chronologically, anyway--has been mounted in a bare two and a half weeks by director Thom Hofrichter and a cast of likewise new-in-town players for Sun Partners, Inc. Though the uniformly young cast have yet to discover the grace notes in their characters, their interpretations are pointed in the right direction. Playing attitude instead of text, they create a semblance of tension and conflict, making each moment interesting through sheer craftsmanship.
Frump Tucker Theatre Company, which has had this play on its schedule for over a year, unfortunately cannot be excused on grounds of haste. Director Vincent P. Mahler seems inexplicably reluctant to cause his audience any unease. His actors scream or bellow as the script requires but deliver most of their dialogue in such chirpy sitcom tones that they make even grisly mutilations and anguished moral crises sound like good-natured hoaxes to be accompanied by a laugh track (an accompaniment generously supplied by the opening-night contingent of actors' buddies).
--Mary Shen Barnidge