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Death Tax Thrills, for First Two-Thirds at Least

Regina Marie Williams and Wendy Lehr

Regina Marie Williams and Wendy Lehr

The truth is a slippery thing in Lucas Hnath's Death Tax.

There are a few facts presented. Maxine, a woman living in a nursing home, believes her daughter wants to kill her before the first of the year to get her inheritance without having to pay new taxes.

See also: Pillsbury House Explores End of LIfe in Death Tax

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Maxine enlists one of her nurses, Tina, to keep her alive at least until the first of the year. If that happens, Tina will get $200,000.

After that, things get slippery. Is Maxine right? When we finally meet the daughter, it's clear she doesn't have the financial means to pay off a nurse to kill her mother.

Tina's perspective, which drives most of the show, is the most interesting. It is never clear whether she is what she projects, or if that is a complete act and she's as delusional as Maxine. She claims to be a reformed person ready to pay for the misdeeds of her young life in Haiti, and now only wants to reunite with her eight-year-old son.

Yet her actions show us a woman ready to manipulate and lie her way through any situation. She wraps her boss, Todd, around her finger and drags him into the plot. At a time when the simplest course of action would be to give the initial money back, Tina and Todd dive in head-first.

Regina Marie Williams does terrific work as Tina, quickly crafting a character with multiple facets. She is instantly engaging and even likable, and that helps to drag us further and further into her scheming head.

All of that makes Hnath's decision to push the final third of the play beyond Tina's story puzzling. While it does allow the playwright to directly address issues of how we treat, and often isolate, the elderly, it leaves us without the most interesting character in the show. A play that should have provided us a more intense finale for Tina instead drifts off to its end.

IF YOU GO:

Death Tax Through April 4 Pillsbury House Theatre 3501 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis $25 (pick your price ticketing) For tickets and more information, call 612-825-0459 or visit online.a>