Ray – Nick Offerman
Babcock / Nizam – David Mersault
Julia – Katy Selverstone
Danny / Ron – Jeffrey Johnson
Lexington / Scones – Don Oscar Smith
Vegas / Mathis – Dylan Kenin
Tony / Bartender – Christian Anderson
Renee / Waitress – Sarah Sido
Max – Shanti Reinhardt
Director – Larry Biederman
Scenic Designer – Keith Mitchell
Lighting Designer – Craig Pierce
Costume Designer – Audrey Fisher
Sound Design – John Zalewski
Assistant Director – Jason Uchita
Assistant Lighting Designer – Alain Jourdenais
Stage Manager – Amber Kohler
Assistant Stage Manager – Tracey McAvoy
Producers – Jason Adams & Bart DeLorenzo
Graphic Design – Colleen Wainwright
September 25 - November 6, 2004
Dylan Kenin (Vegas), and Sarah Sido (Waitress)
photo: John Zalewski
Los Angeles Times
Playwright Eric (On the Verge) Overmyer’s signature love affair with language embraces the hard-boiled lexicon of noir in Dark Rapture, a moody, modern-day thriller at the Evidence Room.
This impressively staged caldron of larceny, sex, deceit and murder gets off to an incendiary start with antihero Ray (Nick Offerman) watching a Bay Area hillside fire consume his home with the kind of glee usually reserved for arsonists and Enron traders. "This is what we really want deep down – catastrophe and chaos," he waxes to a seemingly chance acquaintance, an amiable Cuban named Babcock (David Mersault).
Of course, pulp genre protocols dictate that no encounter is innocuous and no one is who they seem – and Overmyer remains a devotee of those rules even as he bends them into a dizzying narrative rollercoaster spanning Los Angeles, Cabo San Lucas, Seattle, New Orleans and Key West. (Keith Mitchell’s modular two- level set uses the expansive venue to great advantage.) The noir staple of the reinvented identity is a main theme in Dark Rapture. Seizing the chance for a fresh start, Ray lets everyone think he died in the blaze. That includes his scheming, unfaithful wife, Julia (Katy Selverstone), who also figures the fire got the $7 million in laundered money she'd been holding for a pair of gangsters (Don Oscar Smith, Dylan Kenin).
The hoods aren't so sure, launching chases and double-crosses galore.
With phrases like "conspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake," Overmyer’s dialogue wittily recalls the gritty lyricism of Raymond Chandler. Under Larry Biederman’s fast-paced direction, the capable cast (which includes Jeffrey Johnson, Christian Anderson, Sarah Sido and Shanti Reinhardt) generally acquit themselves well with the play's challenging language and ambiguous characters.
However, standout performances by Selverstone and Mersault take the piece to another level. Selverstone’s Julia evokes a latter-day Lauren Bacall, sultry, steamy and sassy, while Mersault brings menacing intensity to Babcock and very different energy to his secondary role as a victimized used-car salesman.
While Overmyer eventually wraps up most of his story lines, his characters’ unrelenting amorality makes judging them impossible – but then, who needs closure when ethical free-fall is this much fun?
– Philip Brandes
The dark is for film noir and the rapture is for the glee of slipping the surly bonds of middle America with $5,000,000 your unfaithful wife was going to launder for a pair of gangsters. Playwright Eric Overmyer uses these concepts as bookends for his literate funny meditation from characters as disparate as a pair of Armenian assassins bent on revenge for the fabled Turkish genocide of 1917 and a mysterious Cuban who claims to be the second hit man on the grassy knoll who assassinated John F. Kennedy.
"History is a living wound," snarls Tony, the tall Armenian, as he staunches it with a bullet through the head of a Turkish used car salesman. Overmyer may not have intended the resonance stemming from the dual casting of the darkly versatile David Mersault as both Turkish victim and Cuban assassin seeking revenge for the Bay of Pigs but it certainly works under the gifted direction of Larry Biederman.
Overmyer's anti-hero is Ray, a wannabe screenwriter who has no trouble dumping Hollywood when a fire destroys his house and gives him the chance to abscond with the money his wife Julia has trusted him to deposit while she’s in Cabo San Lucas boffing her pool man Danny. If this were a movie, there’d be gorgeous photo ops for the locations this couple find themselves in on their sex and money high.
Ray flees the flames for rainy Seattle where he meets Renee, a sultry Cuban, at a coffee bar. He wonders dimly what brings her on vacation so far from palm-fringed Key West but she soon makes him forget that. The labyrinthine plot is interrupted by the afore-mentioned Armenian assassination scene. When we next meet Julia, she’s standing up with svelte disdain to suspicious lawyers Scones and Mathis, played by the actors who later play Lexington and Vegas, the hoods who want their five million.
Though treating them with the contempt deserved by a couple of gangsters straight out of Kiss Me, Kate (Vegas is even alarmingly well versed in the classics), she agrees to help them search for Ray who she declares is dead. But we find Ray in Key West with a ditzy blonde named Max, tracked by Babcock, the Cuban assassin. Don’t worry if the logistics of this dense plot escape you. Overmyer may be paying homage to his inspiration, Raymond Chandler, who once wrote a mystery novel about which he had to confess to the film producers that he didn't know who the murderer was.
Anyway it’s a mesmerizing hoot and amazing to watch the cast slither through the shoji screens and create the locations on Keith Mitchell’s split-level set. Craig Pierce’s lighting is so consistently film noir a few scenes are almost invisible but the actors soon find their spots.
Katy Selverstone is an elegant unforgettable bad girl as Julia, Nick Offerman as Ray lets us know he's always writing in his head, and the supporting cast are as enjoyable as those wonderful character actors in a Jacques Tourneur 1940s classic. – Laura Hitchcock