Splatter Pattern

Neal Bell's dirge slowly enthralls. It features a time-bending gimmick: A grieving writer named Dunn (Jim Hanna) rewinds his conversations with everyone from his agent (Leslie Gilliam) to his realtor (Jake Elsas). After the death of his partner of 23 years, Dunn can't write a salable script; his career's future hinges on getting under the skin of his tabloid-famous new neighbor, Tate (Donald Robert Stewart), a professor who's been accused of — though not officially charged with — murdering his student (Lindsay Lauren Wray, understated and resonant). Initially, Dunn is drawn to Tate's loneliness and unapologetic emotional outbursts, but as Tate's pain sours from being comforting to repulsive, Bell's artificial world cracks open to reveal two men haunted by the dead, fixated on the morbid and aware that heroes are fading away. Derek Charles Livingston directs capably, but needs a firmer hand on Bell's temporal shiftiness and on the clash between Hanna and Stewart's naturalism and his supporting actors' jarring pertness. The uncredited set design is nicely evocative, with the skeletons of two Manhattan high-rise apartments fringed by black and blood-red paint that looks like it wants to worm its way inside the characters, and possibly the audience. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Jan. 12. Continues through Feb. 23, 2008


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