Missing/Kissing, Foreground Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. The king of quirks, John Patrick Shanley invents characters who are one beat off from the rest of the world. But his mannered, metaphorical, cutely self-conscious dialogue can suggest needy souls whose lives, to quote one character, "have just stopped working."
Warmly staged by Allen Jeffrey Rein in this debut production by Foreground Theatre, these two 1996 one-acts depict lovelorn New Yorkers aching to surrender self-pity for affection. In Missing Marisa, two obsessive former lovers of the mysterious title lady rake themselves over the coals of memory, including wondering about who spread a social disease, only to discover that "we're on our own." Though too young for their parts, Craig C. Thompson and Jeffrey Fowers emote as floridly as even Shanley could desire.
Equally mired in self-doubt but much more whimsical, Kissing Christine represents a torturous first date between the title character, a mercurial woman who wants to put her brain back together after having fallen down a hole, and a married man crushed by the thought that "nothing's important." Following a lecture by a self-help guru, they've come to a Japanese restaurant to sort out their lives and, not surprisingly, stumble into some unconditional love. Erin Myers doesn't quite negotiate Christine's many changes in mood, but her caring seems a force of nature. Marc Pera delivers his character's half-hearted hopes for a second chance, appropriately, like nocturnal skywriting. This one-act's sole drawback is manipulative, occasionally ill-timed lighting.