Kaleidoscope Theatre/Workhouse Theatre; at the Warren through July 26
Seeing as how we, as a species, appear to be furiously evolving toward a life of sitting on padded seats and hurling ourselves through space in motorized missiles, it makes perfect sense that Neil LaBute's Autobahn should take place entirely within the confines of a car. Make that five cars, which is also the number of short plays that make up Autobahn. In the first, a young woman (Lacey Piotter) slumps angrily in her seat and delivers a monologue to her long-suffering, silent mother (Valerie Borey). It seems the girl is out of rehab and passing the time on the way home by detailing her drug exploits. In the second segment, a guy (Christopher McGahan) and a girl (Lindsay Timmington) are parked in seclusion and duly begin to make out. Timmington eventually steers things in an entirely different direction, though, teasing a happy psychopath out of her character in the funniest stretch of the night. Next is a light scenario with a young dude (Shawn Patrick Boyd) imploring his slacker bud (Josh Vogen) to burst into his ex-girlfriend's house and reclaim his beloved video game. From here things turn decidedly dark, first with a man (Corey A. Walton) and a much younger girl (Valerie Falken) on a road trip. LaBute gradually reveals why they're traveling together, and Walton does measured and delicate work as a dangerous creep seemingly convinced of his own rightness. The final scene works a similar theme, with a woman (Rachel Flynn) talking nervously to her silent, driving husband (Jeff Redman). Flynn, in the best performance of the night, motormouths her way through all manner of self-justification over her and her husband having jettisoned a foster child who may or may not have been abused under their care. Overall, this is well-handled material, and the execution displays ample smarts in making the most of a small-theater budget and an aware, pitch-conscious cast. For LaBute's part, Autobahn manages to evoke his typical sense of moral outrage (the scolding variety), with only intermittent sympathy with his characters. Fortunately his gift for dialogue holds true here, and the performers make the most of it.