“Dirty Story” at Intiman

John Patrick Shanley who delighted us with “Moonstruck” and challenged us with “Doubt” plays sinister games with us in “Dirty Story.” It opens with two men playing chess, not with each other, but on separate tables. By the end we’re watching the Palestinian/Israeli catastrophe play out as allegory in a New York loft.

The play is composed of two disjointed acts. In the first, a self important and cruel professor (Shawn Law) cuts to shreds the work of a hopeful student (Carol Roscoe) then ends up inviting her to dinner in his apartment. There he ties her up so that she is straddling a ladder, gets out his chain saw, and threatens to cut her to shreds. You want tension? You get it here, tension with truly horrifying moments.

In the second act they are living together, fighting over territory in the apartment. Gradually you begin to understand that the references, the costumes, the accents, and the action are all metaphors for the Israeli/Palestinian tragedy. Fascinating idea but a little too clever by half.

The play is built like a Rubic cube or jigsaw puzzle. You’ve got to do a lot of work to get the pieces lined up. But if you like intellectual challenges there’s lots to like here and great satisfaction as you fit what you can together. The problem is it’s just too much work. And unfortunately, the two acts don’t quite jell.

The acting is great. The set is interesting. Director Valerie Curtis Newton has staged it well, but playwright Shanley needs to do some rewriting and refinement.

Through Aug. 25 (check box office at 206 443-7178 or www.intiman.org for exact dates), Intiman Theatre 201 Mercer St., Seattle, tickets $30 at Ticketmaster.com.

Leave a Reply