What do you get when you combine two grizzled tyrants, a sinister doctor, and ghoulish offspring chained to brick walls? I’m not really sure. And if you go see Daniel Keene’s The Killing Room, you may not be, either.
The play, directed by Nick Flint, is billed as a version of the myth of Atreus and Thyestes, Greek lore’s most vengeful brothers—but it seems to owe more (a lot more) to Beckett. Some exchanges are practically word-for-word quotations. The premise, as far as it’s discernible, is that Ed (David Deblinger) and Cy (Christopher Baker) were once kings, but after some unexplained apocalypse (Endgame much?), they’re shivering in hospital beds, hooked up to IV drips streaming endless bags of blood. They dread the return of their families. I’m guessing that’s because one of them ate his kids in the original myth—but it’s hard to tell, because Keene fixates on gory imagery at the expense of storytelling.
In the more amusing scenes, the brothers snipe and snarl, attempting to sabotage each other’s IVs or poking at the putrid mush served up for lunch. But even here, Ed and Cy seem like a knockoff Hamm and Clov. Keene stuffs so many secondhand tropes into one show that the results are as murky as the unidentifiable goo on the duo’s trays.