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Roadkill Confidential

Sheila Callaghan's new play about an artist pursued by the FBI is often thought-provoking. logo
Polly Lee, Danny Mastrogiorgio, Greg McFadden
and Rebecca Henderson in Roadkill Confidential
(© Carl Skutsch)
Sheila Callaghan metaphorically pits the arts against the federal government in her theatrical noir Roadkill Confidential, which Clubbed Thumb is presenting at 3LD. While the piece, which Kip Fagan has directed with flair, initially proves laugh-inspiring and thought-provoking, it ultimately runs out of steam before final curtain.

Trevor (Rebecca Henderson), a visual artist whose work aims to shock its viewers, really could never expect that her latest creation -- which incorporates the crushed remains of animals that she's run over with her car in upstate New York --- could put her in the sites of the FBI. But, after a college student (Alex Anfanger) she's been having an extramarital affair with dies from touching one of the critters, infected with a highly contagious bacterial disease that's often used in biological warfare, she finds herself in the sites of a guy known simply as FBI Man (Danny Mastrogiorgio).

In true noir fashion, the pursuer -- the ultra-patriotic, well-meaning, but not terribly bright fed -- finds himself pursued as he becomes increasingly fascinated with his brooding, yet volcanic, prey. He watches her from the tiny video camera he secretes inside her home with increasing regularity, hoping to not only gain the evidence he needs to nab her, but also to understand the woman and the artist as well as the world in which she lives.

Beyond the killer "Bunny disease," Callaghan's play is filled with some terrific (and surreal) flights of fancy. FBI Man sports a patch to cover the eye socket that was left empty after he was tortured on a mission. There's nothing unusual in that. But, when he lifts the small oval of black fabric, whomever he is speaking with is compelled to reveal their innermost thoughts and desires. Ultimately, the conceit provides Callaghan with an intriguing way of dealing with exposition throughout.

She is equally cunning in the ways in which she satirizes aspects of our world today through her portraits of the people surrounding Trevor, notably her art history professor husband William (played with breezy dorkiness by Greg McFadden), who revels in his wife's (and others') avant garde work. Similarly, as Trevor's stepson Randy (imbued with peripatetic edginess by Anfanger) searches for fame through the YouTube videos he posts and the inane television commercials for which he auditions, Callaghan skewers our current mania for achieving quick celebrity.

It's all incredibly thoughtful, and there are moments when the play, which unfolds within the confines of a sterile diorama bordered by tiny TVs overhead (scenic design by Peter Ksander), proves truly amusing. The difficulty is that Callaghan's balance of noir, parody and satire is terribly uneven, and Fagan's production never manages to unite the play's varied tones.

What pulls audiences through are Mastrogiorgio's and Henderson's spot-on performances, which beautifully navigate the play's dichotomous threads of comedy and drama and prove consistently engaging.

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