Serenading Louie, Roadworks Productions, at Victory Gardens Theater. Subverting the usual dictum, the characters in this early Lanford Wilson work (written in 1970 and revised in 1984) have little to show but much to tell. The big chill has set in on four North Shore thirtysomethings; nothing seems as certain as it did when they attended Northwestern. But somehow director Abigail Deser finds a purpose in their passivity, giving their despairing dialogue an unexpected dignity.
Clamoring to confess their unquiet desperation are two married couples so alienated they're virtually paralyzed. Careerist Carl (Danny McCarthy) cares for nothing beyond his next beer while his randy wife, Mary (Linda Gillum), a motormouth spoiled brat, practically broadcasts her infidelity. Equally unfaithful is politically ambitious attorney Alex (David Cromer), an ethical chameleon who only dimly recalls his countercultural ideals. His wife, Gabby (Sarah Wellington), has turned herself into a misogynist's raw data. They tell us repeatedly that "real life will begin soon," that nothing gets to them anymore, that you love people in moments only, and that the American economy is fueled by profiteering. Abruptly concluding the deadly torpor and endless talk is a massacre that resolves nothing.
Set designer Geoffrey M. Curley's lavish parlor serves as home to both couples, while a menacing clock counts off the wasted moments. Serenading Louie offers a familiar indictment, but by the end of this revival, Roadworks rewards us for eavesdropping on Wilson's eloquent losers.