STARE MASTER Masur, left, has face time with Foster.

STARE MASTER Masur, left, has face time with Foster.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5

A debuting playwright trying to grab attention could be forgiven for penning an overplotted thriller that prizes clever twists over character truths. Sadly, though, Billy Goda dwells on human drama in Dust, a flavorless mulligan stew of undercooked relationship drama and predigested genre clichés. I counted precisely one spring-loaded surprise in its leisurely hundred minutes and roughly half a scene of genuine tension.

The latter comes when ex-con Zeke (Hunter Foster, looking especially Mellencampy) shows up armed and uninvited at the hotel room of hedge-fund manager Martin (Richard Masur), who had Zeke fired from his handyman job in a fit of pique. The class-war friction soon dissipates, though, in a poorly staged ass-kicking, and the play reverts to its default notion of dramatic conflict, which is reminiscent of Monty Python’s argument clinic: One character repeatedly contradicts another until one or the other exits.

With so little to chew on, most of the actors hunker down into energy-saver mode. Not so Laura E. Campbell, who tartly milks a thankless nubile-love-interest role, and Curtis McClarin, as a yin-yang pair of black role models. Scott Zigler’s direction is workmanlike at best; he obviously begged off any extra dramaturgical duties. Wobbly and weak, Dust should have stayed on the shelf.

Westside Theatre. By Billy Goda. Dir. Scott Zigler. With ensemble cast. 1hr 40mins. One intermission.