Fun Harmless Warmachine explores the soul of the Trumpian white male | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Fun Harmless Warmachine explores the soul of the Trumpian white male

The New Colony's show plumbs unsettling depths.


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It's tempting to label Tom, the twentysomething protagonist in Fin Coe's inventive, disturbing new play, as the quintessential disaffected Trumpian white male, fed up with a self-proclaimed progressive culture that offers him little but meaningless employment while indicting him for supposedly limitless privilege. But Coe is too smart a writer to trade in such a reductive trope. His Tom, a virtuoso gamer and indifferent insurance salesman, bristles, stews, and seethes because his daily life is "just fine": comfortable, safe, predictable, indistinguishable from ten thousand others. In short, he's pathetic. No wonder he falls in with the Order of the Sword, an online gaming cabal administered by charming and vaguely threatening Hunter, where he's a revered star. But when his Order brothers learn his coworker Melissa once spurned his half-hearted advances, they unleash a torrent of unconscionable harassment on her, and Tom is forced to confront the fact that he's found a home in a community rooted in his own worst impulses.

Director James Fleming keeps Coe's splintered scenes moving at a breakneck pace without compromising psychological nuance (although with many actors playing multiple roles it's sometimes difficult to keep everyone straight). The cast rarely overplays scenes that invite emotional indulgence, making for a taut, engaging 100 minutes. As Tom, Daniel Chenard is charming, vulnerable, and witlessly unprincipled, a perfect destructive foil for open-hearted girlfriend Ekaterina, played to harrowing perfection by Ayanna Bria Bakari. Except for the implausible and unnecessary final scene, this New Colony premiere plumbs very unsettling depths.   v

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