Bar Flies feeds on a willingness to believe, despite past evidence, that the world is knowable, that the familiar will remain so: A drunk maid of honor, in giving her toast, reveals embarrassing secrets about her sister, the bride; a tow truck man shakily recounts hauling a wrecked car, hit by a drunk driver, from a lake. But, as the show brings home, the world is always outpacing us in its appetite for irony—cruel or horrifying, mostly.
Like his book of short stories, Rest Area (2002), Clay McLeod Chapman’s new performance piece is a collection of monologues in which the full context of the speaker’s confession belatedly reveals itself. Coupled with an immersive cocktail lounge setting—the audience can order drinks throughout and, according to the PR materials, “possibly even go home with one of the performers”—this approach risks a high hoodwink-gimmick quotient. But the changing parameters are not a pure product of verbal misdirection; more often, they arise from our own unfounded assumptions. Even days later the tales evoke the cool pleasure of arriving unexpectedly at a place you were going all along, and a wonder at how subtly Chapman dropped his bread crumbs. The acting is mostly excellent, particularly in two roles ripe for overindulgence: Dave Gueriera as a trucker-capped Southerner who’s come into some reward money, and the very funny Hanna Cheek as the martini-swigging bridesmaid. Don’t read the spoiler packet they hand out at the door. Or if you do, pound whiskey to forget.