Like her recent That Pretty Pretty; Or, The Rape Play, Callaghan’s latest is concerned with the numbing effects on our society of exposure to brutality. But where The Rape Play cast its bitter, metatheatrical eye on depictions of macho misogyny in popular culture, Confidential sets its sights on the horrors of a still-weird real world.
Conceptual artist Trevor (a well-used Carapetyan) made her name by repurposing bloody images of a dead woman in a car crash—the woman in question being the first wife of Trevor’s husband (Smith), an alienatingly academic art-history prof, and the mother of Trevor’s freaked-out stepson (Goetten). Haunted by the effects of fame on her family and by our daily bombardment with messages of violence and fear, Trevor works secretively on a new project—a roadkill sculpture that may also be an instrument of bioterror, attracting the attention of a gung-ho FBI agent (the hilariously committed Brouwers).
Dog & Pony’s compelling production, continuing its long association with company member Callaghan, insinuates the audience in this paranoiac environment, situating the FBI man among us as he tries to make a case against Trevor. De Mayo’s design team creates a world that’s both off-kilter (as in Ben Kolak’s dizzying video design) and jarringly up-to-date (at Friday’s opening, sound designer Stephen Ptacek had spliced in news reports of Bin Laden’s demise five days earlier). It’s hard to say if the fascinating whole is searingly intelligent parody or something altogether more serious; the uncertainty is admirable.