There are certain subjects that somehow seem beyond the naturalistic reach of the venerable problem play. Like the one addressed by playwright Vince Melocchi’s well-meaning world premiere Nice Things: that epic geopolitical theater of the absurd known as the War in Afghanistan.

To his credit, Melocchi doesn’t take on the whole Tolstoyan scope of the 13-year conflict, merely its destructive impact on two couples from a working-class community in Pittsburgh.


Amy (Connor Kelly-Eiding) has lost both her fiancé-soldier Danny, killed by an insurgent bomb, and the service benefits that promised to provide their ticket out of low-wage poverty. The war has cost Afghan veteran Bobbie Jo (the fine Rebekah Tripp) — a National Guard sergeant and Danny's recruiter — her peace of mind, and now threatens her relationship with her girlfriend Sandy (Melanie Lyons).

Director Elina de Santos turns in a polished production (on Sephanie Kerley Schwartz’s sleek, sliding-panel set), but the play’s meandering pace and easy affirmations undercut both the energy and the urgency of Melocchi’s message — namely, how the basic struggle for economic survival can bring home the distant tragedy of foreign war.

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