Edgewise Serves Up an Unhappy Meal

Eliza Clark welcomes you to fast food with a side of torture

So much blood spatters the burger-bar set of Eliza Clark's Edgewise that even the ketchup bottles start to look less like condiments and more like squeezable O-positive. An exuberantly violent and scarcely credible exploration of war and paranoia, this fast-food fright show opens in a new production skillfully directed by Trip Cullman and sponsored by the Play Company and Page 73 Productions.

Teenagers Marco (Tobias Segal), Ruckus (Philip Ettinger), and Emma (Aja Naomi King) spend their weekends behind the counter at a fictional franchise—catchphrase: "Meat Is Neat!" Yet, in the course of the play, only one patty hits the grill and no potato enters the deep-fryer—though a hat, a face, and several fingers do get extra-crispy. In the long respites between customers, the employees discuss the brutal conflict that has long enveloped the nation and take turns torturing the suspected enemy combatant they have trussed up in the stockroom.

Clark has designed her play as a particularly vicious thought experiment: What if the wars we perpetuate returned to us? What if Trenton suddenly transformed into Baghdad or Kabul? It's an intriguing and quite scary question, though Clark's play—which seems to owe much to Sarah Kane's Blasted—explores it in a rather shallow fashion. Where Kane's play rendered the whole of human cruelty in one hotel room, Clark's gestures toward the universal and poetic never quite come off. Yet scenes of acid-tinged adolescent banter hint that she may develop into a compelling writer. So by all means, order up Clark again. But—trust me—you don't want fries with that.

 
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