Bingo with the Indians

MOTEL HATE Pohly, left, spews venom in a cheap room.

MOTEL HATE Pohly, left, spews venom in a cheap room. Photograph: Joan Marcus

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Is theater itself Adam Rapp’s real subject? Many of the characters created by this overly prolific downtown bard are writers, performers or assorted aspirers, from the rockers in Finer Noble Gases to the pro wrestler of his last play, American Sligo. Rapp’s newest offering seems like his most self-reflexive yet: Members of an avant-garde New York troupe have come to the sleepy New Hampshire hometown of director Dee (Pohly) to score production money by robbing the local bingo game.

If you think this might be an incisive study of creative conflict, or even just a bitchy satire of Off-Off Broadway pretensions and penury, you’ve come to the wrong motel room. Because what Rapp’s vision is all about, finally, is shameless emotional torture: getting characters to behave as despicably as possible, and here—in the Flea’s claustrophobic basement space—in closer quarters than ever. For a while, there’s a kind of pissy wit in the heated badinage between director Dee, self-indulgent lead actor Stash (Daniels) and simmering stage manager Wilson (Yang). The trio’s true artistic outlet, it appears, is in crafting such timeless epithets as “walking venereal wart” and “skinny hopeless larva.”But when an innocent, mop-haired local teen named Steve (Enderle) wanders into this toxic orbit in hopes of joining the fun, Rapp barely hesitates before hazing the kid within an inch of his dignity. He tidily ruins our night, as well. This slacker-Artaud shtick may once have had a fresh bite, but with Bingo, Rapp has jumped the shark.

—Rob Kendt

Flea Theatre. Written and directed by Adam Rapp. With Cooper Daniels, Jessica Pohly, Rob Yang, Evan Enderle. 1hr 40mins. No intermission.