LIFE AND LIMB, Old Nehamkin Theatre Company, at Voltaire. Subtlety and sunny optimism have never been hallmarks of Keith Reddin's work. A line in his latest play, All the Rage, pretty much sums up his point of view, describing the world as "a cesspool of insanity populated by sick fucks." Optimists routinely wind up with blood splattered all over them, theirs or someone else's; Reddin's stage depictions of hell reveal it to be a far happier place than earth.
Usually Reddin tempers his nihilism with healthy doses of wit and pointed social commentary. But in this early satire of 50s family values--a down-on-his-luck disabled Korean war vet takes a job with a bloodthirsty artificial-limb manufacturer--Reddin trips frequently over the fine line between cheeky Grand Guignol humor and out-and-out brutality. The offhanded, purportedly humorous way in which he attacks genocide, discrimination against the disabled, and cruelty toward the elderly ultimately becomes distasteful, manipulative, and mechanically bleak.
Though this nasty work has its moments of inspiration and poetry, it's an unfortunate choice for the very talented new Old Nehamkin Theatre Company. James Anderson and Thomasin Savaiano are especially believable and touching as the veteran and his long-suffering, doomed wife. Their performances and the overall professionalism of a low-budget production under Mark Hisler's razor-sharp direction mark Old Nehamkin as a company well worth watching, even if Reddin's work isn't. --Adam Langer