THE GRAPHITE SALESMAN, Yurodivy Theatre Company, at the O Bar & Cafe. Playwright Mark Glinski's got too much of a good thing in his new one-act. His premise in The Graphite Salesman is golden: Ted, a naive simpleton stranded in an O'Hare men's room when his traveling partner disappears, finds himself caught up in the world of big business and international intrigue thanks to chance encounters at the urinals. Through a series of almost farcical coincidences, Ted transforms himself into a high-powered graphite salesman named Schmidt whom he meets early in the play, veering dangerously close to becoming a millionaire.
Glinski's piece is never less than entertaining, especially given Devon Schumacher's hilarious, heartbreaking performance as Ted. But the cavalcade of delightfully bizarre characters who cycle through the men's room keeps the play on the light side, steering it away from its greatest strength: the relationship between Ted and Schmidt. Their initial encounter reveals them to be at opposite ends of the power spectrum yet equally vulnerable to the whims of fate. Like David Mamet, Glinski uses salesmen's patter to reveal a sad male culture devoid of soul: Schmidt is the perfect foil for heart-on-his-sleeve Ted. Stranding these two men together for an hour might have given the play the kind of emotional payoff promised by its early scenes. --Justin Hayford