SERENDIPITY, at Frankie J's MethaDome Theater. Arik Martin's taut, grotesque hostage drama may become the Arsenic and Old Lace of the Chicago fringe--it's gotten three productions in three years. The first two typified the off-off-Loop scene: the playwright directed his own script with his own scrappy company in its own tiny space. But now another fringe group so far off the radar it doesn't even have a name has taken the almost unheard-of step of raiding another company's library. Let's hope it's the beginning of a trend--imagine what the Hypocrites might do with old Curious Theatre Branch or Oobleck scripts.
It's easy to see why the play's got legs. The setup is both ingenious and ridiculous: a bumbling bank robber holds a foulmouthed riot grrl captive in a seedy motel room until a misogynistic, sociopathic escaped convict breaks in and takes them both hostage. Adopting a Mamet-tight structure, Martin charts the trio's shifting allegiances and increasingly perverse impulses, slowly revealing that nothing is as it seems. Director Jamy Lynn Harpole errs only during a handful of emotionally extreme moments, when abrupt light shifts and thumping music intrude for no reason. But overall the supple cast finds the right balance between gory comedy and psychological intrigue to deliver an engrossing evening.