Fun and Nobody, Step Right Up, at Stage Left Theatre. Two vivid snapshots of late-20th-century middle-American alienation are offered in Howard Korder's interrelated one-acts. In the first, Fun, two disaffected teens roam the suburban wasteland of malls, superhighways, and fast-food restaurants futilely searching for an escape from their bleak future. The second, Nobody, suggests what they'll likely become, as one teen's father, recently laid off, drifts from a typical middle-class home life toward madness.
Korder proves himself an able satirist and keen observer, particularly in his frank, humorous depiction of the way society fosters an environment that makes youthful violence almost inevitable. Two addresses printed on doors onstage, one reading "1492" and the other "284," suggest America's downward spiral, from promise to desperation in the mid-80s, when Korder wrote these plays.
Director David Nathanielsz's sharply rendered production of Fun effectively captures Korder's pessimistic vision, thanks largely to John Stoops's honest, accurate portrayal of one of the teens. His angry but sympathetic performance suggests a youth on the edge who could become a decent citizen or a neo-Nazi. The discursive, more contemplative Nobody is less successful, ill served by Tim Schueneman's lethargic take on the unemployed father. Here the landscape of hate-group paranoia, loneliness, adultery, and violence the character traverses isn't nearly as frightening and familiar as it needs to be to capture the force of Korder's writing. --Adam Langer