Through Sunday, Oct. 21
Theatre in the Park, Raleigh
It Is Done, the modest little thriller at Theatre in the Park, has a few timely pointers about the marketing of human souls. Never set your price too low. Hospitality helps. And remember, timing is key in this trade. Though it’s never too early to sell a soul, sometimes it’s far too late.
Nothing’s on the level in Alex Goldberg’s one-act drama. Even the setting’s clearly a set-up: a dingy bar and grill that conveniently happens to be the only refuge within a hundred-mile radius on the old prairie. But after a killer dust storm causes two travelers to take shelter there with the sallow-looking bartender, it’s clear this is a horror-show version of three-card Monte. Who’s the demon? Hank, the skeevy barkeep who keeps fingering this month’s Hustler next to the cash register? Jonas, the human question mark, who keeps staring into the abyss at the bottom of his glass of Jack Black? Or streetwise young Ruby, whose car just broke down outside the bar?
The first clues come when the boys use a $100 bet as a pretext to dream up increasingly misogynistic versions of Ruby’s life story. When she meets this harassment with a few guesses of her own about the shadows in Hank’s and Jonas’s pasts, things really start to slide in this dark little bar. Sometimes, right is the last thing you want to be.
Under Ira David Wood III’s direction, we glimpse the monstrous in all three of these characters. Veteran actor D. Anthony Pender convinces as a singularly scuzzy Hank, but I expected much more reticence in Jock Brocki’s haunted, antisocial Jonas. Newcomer Olivia Fitts’s nerveless bravado as Ruth is calibrated to make us wonder if there’s anything in that oversize handbag that can back her play if the guys get out of hand.
It’s a hazard of the supernatural thriller that special lighting and sound effects become less special the more they’re used. Still, Goldberg’s Twilight Zone scripting and repartee makes us wonder long enough just who’s the cat and who’s the mouse in this chilly little trio about unpaid spiritual debts and the high price of collections.