Games abound in Victims/Trust (Actors Playground)—poker, Monopoly, and cat and mouse—while the players stare down the barrel of a gun. In each of these one-acts (with actors rotating roles), author David Yee shuts two characters in a room to play to the death. In Victims, Jill (April Peveteaux) walks into her apartment to find the mysterious Jack (Guido Venitucci) tied to a chair a few feet from an unknown corpse. In an atmosphere absurdly comic but with growing menace, Jack convinces Jill her one chance to live lies in untying him and staking her life on a game. Although Venitucci’s Jack charges his wacky nerdiness with fiendish craft, Victims never rises above an exercise in plot twists—far more clever than convincing.
In Trust, a couple play for stakes that feel more real—the life or death of their relationship. Locked in an endless cycle of argument and make-up sex, Sara (Heather Aldridge) and Mike (Larry Mitchell) agree to hole up in a motel room until they break their stalemate. After three weeks, with board games and pizza boxes littering the floor, they engage in “Trust,” where each must answer hard questions with truth. Luckily, the depth and nuance of their affair spills over these artificial constraints. Although Yee’s writing suffers from some preciousness, his couple’s forays and retreats, attacks and couplings as they circle round and break through, are recognizable, amusing, and terribly sad. Matthew H. Landfield directs with a charged physicality. As the two yell over each other, tickle, kiss, connect, and withdraw, Aldridge’s Sara alternates between hesitant joy and defeat, and Mitchell delivers an edgy Mike, bristling with hurt and determination. This contest has no winners, but here the losers take all—and us with them.