Theater archives

Order’s Skill Set Also Includes Violence


PharmaCo’s sad-sack secretary, Tom Blander, could use a little bit of its new drug ProzaCan. The drug promises “the power to perform”—and that’s something Tom (Ryan Tramont) desperately wants in his feeble life. A former philosophy professor, he suffers through workdays under a psychotic boss who taunts him with homophobic slurs. At night, he faces off with Maisy (Amanda Plant), his disapproving ice-queen wife. Tom’s pompous shrink, Dr. Fine (Brad Fryman), tells him to ignore his disturbing, violent dreams and those voices he’s starting to hear. But one day something snaps—and the trail of bodies begins.

Order, a new play by Christopher Boal staged by Oberon Theatre Ensemble, has a boomerang setup. First we meet each character in Tom’s pressure-cooker world, then we revisit them as the transformed hero systematically exacts his revenge. Tramont gives a nicely focused performance in this American Psycho role, letting us savor his wild exhilaration. But the playwright draws all the other characters as boorish caricatures, belaboring their supposed quirks in the repetitive first half.

Though it’s basically television writing, director Austin Pendleton makes reasonable sense of the drama’s more abstract dimensions, like figuring out what to do onstage with an awkward character representing the voices in Tom’s head (Gabe Bettio). Order‘s sharpest moments come in the ironic scenes of Tom’s temporary triumphs as a cannibal CEO; if only the play could break out of familiar terrain, it, too, might find dark and unpredictable powers.