Framing the Shot
Through March 25
Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh

Almost a decade before he wrote EverScape, his breakout play about online-gaming culture, which won accolades at the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival, Allan Maule wrote and staged three-person comedy Framing the Shot for his master’s thesis at UNC-Chapel Hill. But even after an upgrade that flips the genders of the two main characters for this Sonorous Road production, it still feels like an earlier, less-developed work.

In Framing the Shot, a Chicago glassworker named Terry bursts into his neighbor Jacob’s apartment with a renewed lust for life. Why? Someone just took a shot at him and missed. “I thought nobody cared whether I lived or died,” Terry confides. “But today, I found out I was wrong. Somebody does care. Enough that they tried to kill me.”

Based on that affirmation, Terry, who’s a bit of a noodge, takes a sudden interest in Jacob, his nearest fellow human. But that could be a problem, as Jacob’s actually the professional killer hired to take him down. Working in Terry’s favor, though, are Jacob’s unlikely philosophical misgivings about his line of work and the doubts raised because Terry is the first person Jacob has ever missed.

Under Ira David Wood IV’s direction, this serviceable production doesn’t rise far above the dark-sitcom trappings of the script. After the gender flip, fine comic actor Lorelei Lemon readily engages as the manic Terri. Michelle Murray Wells broods as the preoccupied assassin, now named Nicola. But the paper-thin tough-guy persona Patrick Whalen gave Nicola’s hit-man boss, Lance, was as unconvincing as the script’s flimsy, convenient ending.

Update aside, Framing the Shot still feels like early work; fortunately, Maule has moved on to stronger material.