Tender Napalm is hardly the first play to conceptualize the ebbs and flows of romantic love as a martial art. Unlike August Strindberg's Dance of Death or Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (this play's direct ancestors), British playwright Philip Ridley's mesmerizing tour de force of the histrionic imagination pushes stage poetics to an ontological extreme to seal off any but the barest hints of offstage reality for its nameless pair of lover-combatants. Director Edward Edwards' choice of venues -- a converted studio in a deserted warehouse district on the wrong side of the Downtown Arts District -- both sets the scene and lends the evening the shady decorum of an outlaw cockfight. Inside, Graham Hamilton and Jaimi Paige face off on a boxing-ring stage for a nonstop, 100-minute, violently erotic bout of incendiary fabulation. And this match adheres to the rules set down by Albee's George and Martha, which means all blows are strictly below the belt. It's a blood sport of solipsistic one-upmanship where the only way to keep score is by each torturously re-opened wound revealed in the actors' faces. To that end, Hamilton and Paige give as good as they get, both expertly wielding Ridley's rhapsodic, razor-edged monologues and giving profound meaning to the expression "acting is reacting."
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: March 1. Continues through March 31, 2013
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