The Walker Art Center's 2015 Out There festival opened Thursday with the world premiere of Richard Maxwell's sometimes affecting, but more often perplexing The Evening.
Set in a nameless bar in a nameless town, The Evening features a trio of lost souls in search of escape. There's Asi, a mixed-martial artist at the end of his go-nowhere career. There's his manager, Cosmo, who is most interested in getting high and trying to have fun. And there's the bartender, Beatrice, whose dreams of escape have landed on, of all places, Istanbul.
Their circular, three-way arguments develop slowly over the course of the hour-long show, to the point that at times the replay of an Auburn/Alabama football game on the bar's big-screen TV offers more interest.
There's also a band, who are trapped in the rather familiar hell of a terrible gig. After all, there are as many people on the "stage" (a tight corner on the set) as in the bar. Then again, the trio isn't likely to break out into "Double Vision" or "Show Me the Way." Instead, it's more like the moodier side of the Velvet Underground. Not great for dancing, but it fits the tone.
The Evening picks up once a gun is introduced, and Maxwell pushes the absurdity near the end. As an artist, the creator is a tough nut to crack. The actors employ a distant style where their emotions don't always mesh with the action. Add in a script that is often circular and you have plenty of barriers.
The occasional humor helps, as does the rising tide of oddity in the last 20 minutes of the play, as the "reality" we've watched for the first part of the show gets taken away by the stage hands and turned into a blank white stage for the actors to play out their final scene.
The most affecting and real moment comes at the very beginning, when it is just Maxwell telling a story about the last days of his father's life. How that connects to our fighter, manager, and bartender and their search is left to the imagination.
IF YOU GO
The Evening Through Saturday Walker Art Center 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis $22-$25 For tickets and more information, call 612-375-7600 or visit online.