As a storyteller, Joyce Carol Oates frequently traverses aberrant corridors of the human psyche. That's readily apparent in this 1990 (since updated to 2003) one-act, about a middle-aged couple, Frank and Emily Gulick (Alan Blumenfeld and Katherine James), whose son has been accused of the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old neighbor. The couple's nightmare compounds a thousandfold as they are interviewed live on TV and interrogated about an event too horrendous for them to accept. They're bombarded with questions as they squirm, deny basic facts and search desperately within themselves for an alternative explanation for the obvious. Some of the queries mimic the sensationalized reporting of tabloid TV, while others are stultifyingly theoretical and pedantic and humiliatingly above their heads. Oates intended the piece as a cacophonous expression of a society out of sync with humanity rather than a realistic portrait of two tormented people, but the production's strength is in fact the wonderful craftsmanship of both performers (James is particularly spot-on), and the nuanced complexity of the emotions they depict. As the offstage inquisitor, Jeff Wiesen's voice sounded canned rather than live, perhaps an effort by director Mike Peebler to conform to Oates' original concept. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Thurs., Sept. 19 & 26, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 12, 8 p.m. (310) 455-3723, theatricum.com.
Thu., Sept. 5, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 12, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 19, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 26, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 12, 8 p.m., 2013