ROUND AND ROUND: A SEX-FARCE TRAGEDY, Curious Theatre Branch, at the Lunar Cabaret. The subtitle of Jenny Magnus's new play is telling: the piece does balance these two conflicting genres in a taut, funny, but finally mournful look at the power struggles and games played out in relationships. Magnus locates her intricate story of a woman with three lovers at the messy intersection of language and love, and Paul Leisen's lazy Susan set is a fitting metaphor for the circular nature of these affairs. A static desperation infuses all the proceedings as identities shift, rules are changed, and stakes are heightened.
In other hands, Round and Round could easily have become a shallow formal exercise or an existential parody, the bastard child of Arthur Schnitzler and Jean-Paul Sartre. But Magnus is too smart and honest a writer to allow that. As always, she shows a keen ability to dissect the killing effects of cynicism on relationships, a theme she enlarges upon in a highly structured context, aided by Beau O'Reilly's simple, precise staging. Magnus, who plays the woman, and the other three actors are almost perfect: Colm O'Reilly shows astonishing fluidity in his various transformations, Mark Comiskey plays cruel mandarin disdain with chilling panache, and Guy Massey peels off the layers of his character's urbane, cool exterior to show us devastating glimpses of emotional hunger and need.