Playwright David Hauptschein's metaphors have fangs, claws, razors, and blades. His refined and condensed version of Trance, first presented last fall, disembowels the American dream by slicing up the luckless Fleegler family, who hope to strike it rich selling pencils with fortunes tucked under their erasers. First, though, they'll have to stop tearing one another to shreds. Miraculously Hauptschein crafts this blacker-than-black tragicomedy without a trace of malice, opting instead for limitless empathy and crooked humor. Director Dan Sauer has a hard time wresting the play from the trap of naturalism, which the Red Orchid Theatre's intimate space unfortunately invites, and occasionally his production whimpers when it should bang. But he draws performances from the original cast that are even more riveting than they were the first time around (newcomer Sharon Göpfert integrates her role seamlessly). The ending still seems pulled from shallow left field, as Hauptschein tries to transform his psychological family nightmare into a sociopolitical allegory. But even in digression his choices are unsparing. A late-night offering, Trance requires serious commitment from its audience--if only half the plays in town demanded as much. A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells, 769-6136. Through July 20: Friday-Saturdays, 11 PM. $8.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo by Lara Furniss.