The End of Reality

Written and directed by Richard Maxwell. With ensemble cast. The Kitchen.

OFF THE CUFFS Security guard Marcia Hidalgo loosens Fletcher's bonds.

OFF THE CUFFS Security guard Marcia Hidalgo loosens Fletcher's bonds. Photo: Paula Court

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

Deadpan auteur Richard Maxwell allows more stylistic latitude than usual in his latest opus, The End of Reality, set at the security desk of an unidentified location that is the target of periodic violent invasions. True, the cast still delivers most of the dialogue in a near monotone, as though encountering the words for the first time. But there are cracks in the glaze of imperturbable amateurism that Maxwell cultivates among his actors: They get to laugh instead of merely uttering a robotic ha-ha-ha, and there is real emotion in the anguished cry of one guard (Brian Mendes) when his colleague is abducted by a hulking intruder (Jim Fletcher). More shocking still: When Mendes and Fletcher engage in hand-to-hand battle, their stage combat may be deliberately slow and artificial—more fight rehearsal than fight—but Mendes emerges with a face full of blood.

The violence of this image is especially startling in contrast with the anemia of the production in general, from the dryly minimalist set (with grainy webcam images projected against a hanging panel) to the elliptical, Pinteresque plot. In his most successful previous works (including House, Caveman and last year's Good Samaritans), Maxwell's trademark reductionism has given a unique and engrossing dimension to essentially straightforward domestic plots, throwing their studied banality off-kilter. But here, pressed into the service of what feels like a vague allegory about America and terrorism, the opacity simply gets in the way, yielding long passages of dull obscurity. Despite a few relaxations, Maxwell's style remains too rigid to give his content a fighting chance.—Adam Feldman