Men of Tortuga at TADA

 

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Curzon Dobell, Ken Forman and Benim Foster

 

By Eric J. Grimm

 

Abandoning the broad strokes of good and evil in favor of absurdity and concealment, Jason Wells’ Men of Tortuga, now playing in its New York premiere at TADA!, operates with great efficiency as a tightly constructed mystery as it slowly unveils the monstrous machinations and behavior of its white one-percenter characters while withholding just enough information to complicate our judgment of all of the players. Living Room Theatre’s production, confidently helmed by company cofounder Randolyn Zinn, thrills and horrifies with well-timed morbid comedy and constantly shifting power dynamics in a brisk ninety minutes.

 

Wells wastes no time setting up the plot: Avery (Allen McCullough), Kling (Benim Foster), and Maxwell (Curzon Dobell), colleagues at a successful company, have hired goofy and sociopathic Taggart (Ken Forman) to murder a business rival at an upcoming meeting. The swift and jarring introduction of the characters’ intended actions paves the way for Wells to reveal more about the men’s complicated personalities than their actual motivations. We never know what kind of business these men do but we know that, for them, it is life and death, and they will entertain terrorist actions to preserve their legacies. Perhaps less wicked is Fletcher (Michael Broadhurst), a young associate who would make a fine sacrifice if the older men are up to it. Plot twists both absurd and organic challenge all of the men to cunningly one-up one another as the question of who is good and bad turns into one of who is best at being bad.

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Curzon Dobell and Allen McCullough

 

Zinn has corralled a universally strong ensemble, keeping them on pace as Wells’ snappy dialogue wallops with macabre comedy. Dobell navigates the aging Maxwell’s existential crisis with finesse; he is at once melancholic and still clinging to a ruthlessness that has gotten him to this point, making him the group’s very wayward moral compass. McCullough’s Avery undergoes the most dramatic shift from start to finish. He mines the mild-mannered architect of evil for great comedic moments as he perplexes over the details of the plan before revealing a nastiness that is so subdued as to be supremely chilling. In the process, he shows off Wells’ talent for exposing the rotting souls of his characters steadily as a way of maintaining a terrific tension throughout the show.

 

Men of Tortuga is playing at TADA (15 W. 28th St) through October 23rd. For tickets, visit http://www.lrtvt.org.

Photos: Hunter Canning

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