Wasp in a Lampshade, Transient Theatre. Given the wide array of crimes, fetishes, and assorted perversions in David Wesley Graham's pair of one-acts, it's remarkable how unaffecting they are. By focusing on hopelessly disaffected deviates whose violent acts illuminate their alienation, Graham hopes to force us to reevaluate the labels "victim" and "criminal." But by concentrating so hard on these creeps, Graham sacrifices the plausibility of his supporting characters and, as a consequence, his plots.
Diana, the "victim" in the Mastrosimonean Eclipse, is not so much a human being as a list of questions and responses to her blabbermouth captor, the pathetic but psychopathic office grunt who kidnaps her, ties her to a chair, and refuses to let her go to the john, all to demonstrate how helplessly in love with her he is. When he removes the gag, she asks him how he's feeling. Graham fares little better with the victim in Midnight Snack, a bank teller by day, hooker by night. In this nasty little play (all too reminiscent of Mark Medoff's misanthropic The Wager), the hooker falls victim not only to a coldly intellectual misogynistic maniac who enlists her to murder his teen-molesting roommate so that he can molest the teen himself but also to an escalating series of unbelievably sick plot twists. Incidentally, she too gets tied to a chair.
In both plays, now premiering at Transient Theatre, Graham's shock techniques, convoluted and pompous language, and literary and pop-culture references, ranging from Sophocles to the Smashing Pumpkins, seem designed to conceal a dearth of original ideas and the inability to create full-blown characters. Watching them is rather like being tied to a chair and forced to endure the ravings of a madman. --Adam Langer