Spatter Pattern: or, How I Got Away With It
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
July 10, 2011
Dunn is a struggling screen writer, more obsessed with making Proustian-like art than writing a hit movie. He’s dumped by his agent, searching for an apartment, and battling the demons produced from his dead lover David. He finds a tiny studio, and luckily for him an unlikely muse moves in next door.
Tate is an Iraq veteran and college professor. He’s also the key suspect in the murder of one of his students. Dunn soon becomes fascinated by his neighbor and a friendship begins. Tate realizes he’s more of a research project, and takes Dunn on a journey of murder, lies, and maybe redemption. Dunn has found his screenplay. Dunn is a troubled man seeking solace in a world that doesn’t feel anything deeply and can only offer movie clichés for comfort. A metaphysical murder mystery, at its core Spatter Pattern is a meditation on death and what it means to kill: those who feel responsible, and those who really are.
Potomac Theatre Project has revived Neal Bell’s cleverly written examination of death, love, and self forgiveness. The play is written in short clipped scenes, because life is like a movie. Life gives us classic Hollywood clichés. The Hooker. The disgruntled student. The altruistic college girl, the bad cop, the obnoxious literary agent, etc.
As the story moves forward it becomes clear that Dunn and Tate are melding and neither man can accept what they are becoming. Tate has a secret, even more diabolical than his presumed guilt or innocence. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but suffice to say it pays off at the end.
As Dunn, Jeffries Thaiss is brooding, as a good misunderstood writer should be. The role is emotionally demanding he nails it. As Tate, Adam Ludwig is both frightening and sorrowful—a vet with baggage that’s out of the ordinary; a man who reinvents himself. Ludwig is a skilled actor, and knows how to underscore his more scary moments. Christo Grabowski plays a chorus of male characters that torment both Dunn and Tate. Grabowski is young and new to his craft, but shows a mature versatility. Keep an eye on this kid. Lucy Van Atta plays all the female roles and is at her best when the characters are quirky. She’s fearless when it comes to playing exaggerations. She has a great face and I kept seeing her in something like the Bald Soprano.
Jim Petosa directs and uses just a minimal amount of props to create each location. A good idea. The physical production is simple and compelling. The set is a gray theatre box, and tastefully used multimedia.
Neal Bell and Potomac Theatre Project are a nice combination. They’ve worked together before and based on the end result, let’s hope they do so again.