at Red Eye Theater through October 25
Anyone who has logged time at a typical office job is all too familiar with the synesthetic mush the situation provokes: the acid touch of stale coffee, the murky song of fluorescent lighting, the dead language of torpor and pointlessness. The Thugs captures this soulless miasma quite nicely, depicting seven toilers in a legal office bound by invisible bonds to their desks and a seemingly endless ocean of paperwork. With atmosphere provided in abundance, we are subsequently left with shortcomings of character and plot. In the early going we are introduced to the acerbic Elaine (Miriam Must), who quarrels with her family on her cell phone while ignoring the unpopular and disrespected Mercedes (Katherine Kupiecki). Eventually we meet, among others, the cheerfully disaffected slacker Daphne (Julie Kurtz), drawling New Englander Mary (Kirby Bennett), and brittle supervisor Diane (Sigrid Sutter). While the performances are distinctive, and fun at times, these characters are as deep as the edge of a fingernail, so we're left to contend with the action. Primarily, this concerns rumors of people not showing up for work in other districts of their high-rise, then more disturbing intimations of workers turning up dead. An atmosphere of genuine dread develops; perhaps it's borne of these people's understanding of the fleeting and arbitrary nature of their lives, or perhaps playwright Adam Bock indulged a streak of author's malice and put them in a nasty little trap. Either way, one isn't inclined to fret too much about it, although when the building's lights go out in a storm and the darkened stage becomes a cacophony of fright and confusion, the pulse quickens. There is a death, and a mystery of sorts, although Bock doesn't seem inclined to bother himself explaining it, much less solving it. By the next day things are (sort of) back to normal, the old drab tension reasserts itself, and we're left to draw conclusions only of the most dispiriting variety. While The Thugs feels unfinished, there seems no pressing need to complete it. $8-$18; 8 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun.; Red Eye Theater, 15 W. 14th St., Minneapolis; 612.870.7531.