Words, words, words: Micah Schraft’s The Propaganda Plays barrages you with them—poured from the mouths of men. And women? Well, they subvert these brainy fools with a simmering look, a bared foot—or breast. It’s that damned Eve again, complete with juicy apple and writhing snake.
Although the play’s three “chapters” purport to follow certain characters over time, they really work separately, each a variation on the themes of intellect battling flesh, of language cloaking and deceiving. Sometimes action and motives are cryptic, but The Propaganda Plays is always smart and funny, a fast-paced head teaser that caroms from Hedda Gabler to Heidegger to Hitler, shot through with witty cross-referencing allusions.
In the first sequence, a bright prep school student, begging an extension, is lectured by her professor on Plato’s cave, while she unnerves him with pointed personal questions—and by removing her shoes. As if casting a spell, she leads him through the “cave”—his office darkens, shadows loom—and forces from him the truth of his attraction to her. Next, a pedantic grad student gets coaxed into a trancelike confession of a frightening kind by his oversexed Southern-belle stepmother. Finally, a spookily detached professor studying pheromones manipulates a hunky young man and two women—one turned on by big muscles, the other by big ideas.
Trip Cullman directs with a light touch and simmering sensuality, as he swirls his characters into strange dimensions. And some fascinating folk they are, acted with comic panache by Sheri Graubert, Tatyana Yassukovich, Adrian LaTourelle, and David Hornsby.
Schraft’s welter of clues may not fit together with crossword-puzzle precision, but this provocative, layered mind game should send you off, thoughts agreeably racing.