For all their dramaturgical fireworks, these two one-acts by Thomas Bradshaw pull their punches a little. Thomas Bernhard—like Bradshaw, a darkly hilarious provocateur—targeted the Viennese who flocked to his plays, throwing their Nazi past at them in works like Heldenplatz. But the white supremacists of Strom Thurmond and Cleansed are pure products of their red-state roots; when Cleansed‘s vicious grandmother (Carleigh Welsh) rails against “urban snobs,” she means the type that go in for avant-garde theater.
You’re still unlikely to leave the Brick patting yourself on the back. Bradshaw has a positive genius for explosive imagery, putting biracial Lauraul (Barrett Doss) in a Klan costume and penning a demonic parody of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech for Strom Thurmond (Hugh Sinclair). José Zayas’s direction captures the brutal intensity of these plays, particularly Cleansed, which benefits from an inspired performance by Doss. At the same time, Zayas does little to conceal the moments when Bradshaw lapses into after-school-special banality. Strom Thurmond suffers more from this occasional tendency toward the prolix. A striking premise and fine work by Sinclair are offset by a curiously inert performance by Makeda Christodoulos as Thurmond’s illegitimate daughter. It’s good to see Trent Lott nailed, but Bradshaw’s deep dramatic and linguistic intelligence deserves more challenging targets.