LIFE DURING WARTIME, Firstborn Productions, at the Chopin Theatre. Keith Reddin doesn't leave much to the imagination; a master manipulator, he refuses to leave any questions unanswered. His characters display their emotions and intentions plainly. And though his dark, perverse sense of humor is often appealing, he gets too wrapped up in moral issues and ethical dilemmas.
Life During Wartime--about an ambitious young salesman caught in the clutches of a corrupt home-security company--is certainly timely, given the supposed Y2K crisis. What's galling about Reddin's 1991 script is its complete lack of subtlety. Rather than mask his didactic leanings, Reddin emphasizes them by introducing the spirit of 16th-century religious leader John Calvin, who materializes now and then to comment on the action and offer lessons in conventional morality. Though the device helps propel the play forward at its weakest moments, it's also entirely obvious.
Firstborn Productions places too much emphasis on adding color to Reddin's drab script with technical details. Which is a shame since the company's real strength is its pool of actors. Jason Jones is eminently likable as the dorky door-to-door salesman, and Kirk Gillman and Rachel Tomlinson do terrific work in a variety of small character roles. With a smaller-scale production, these fine performances might have been more apparent; like Reddin, Firstborn would have done better and said more with less. --Nick Green