LURID TALES OF FABULOUS MURDER AND INTRIGUE, Step Right Up Productions, at Stage Left Theatre. A nice fit, these two one-acts on one bill: they share a fascination with fantasies of murder. The eavesdropping audience is inevitably drawn into, and implicated by, the situations, in which imagined violence offsets real repression.
Though inspired by the true story of two sisters' murder of their mistress, Jean Genet's The Maids characteristically turns that rage inward. Instead of killing the lady, Genet's twisted sisters create a dark rite much like that of the murderers in Claude Chabrol's La ceremonie: they take turns wearing Madame's dresses or their uniforms, magnifying or abasing themselves. But when they're on the verge of being arrested, their usually containable fantasy turns desperate and deadly. Curt Columbus's staging is as florid as Genet's chartreuse prose, nicely developing the servants' frustrations into flamboyant fantasies. And Jessica Young and Emily Pollock as the sisters offer well-defined extremes. But there's insufficient contrast between Madame's would-be killers and Abby Sher's frenetic Madame: because she seems as disturbed as they are, the maids' mutual madness loses its edge.
In Keith Reddin's unsubtle, darkly comic You Belong to Me four friends act out their worst impulses. Succumbing to lethal fancies, wives and husbands stab, poison, or shoot their spouses or rivals, imagined or real. Heidi Crooker directs these variations on a murderous theme with vigor and venom. --Lawrence Bommer