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Review: 'Necessary Monsters' tries to be too much

But SpeakEasy Stage Company's latest is still worth a look
Craig Bailey, Perspective Photo

“Necessary Monsters” is a strange play rife with disturbed characters whose lives are loosely connected through a series of non-linear vignettes.

SpeakEasy Stage Company’s overwrought production of local playwright/actor John Kuntz’s latest work feels, at times, like a dizzying exercise in overstimulation. The actors are in a cage with a scattered multitude of props and video technology that’s only as effective as your proximity to it.

In this dark, claustrophobic environment, they meander through their empty lives searching for relief from aching loneliness. Sex, drugs, alcohol, physical and emotional abuse and serial killing prove to be no match, however, for the demons they seek to quell.

Are they the monsters the title refers to? Or, perhaps, the substances and behaviors they use as coping mechanisms are these monsters. Who knows? The decided lack of clarity in the flimsy storyline makes it hard to commit to little more than perverse curiosity, which can take away from the strong work of this incredibly talented ensemble.

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Several of the characters are so good they could easily be the subject of a full-length story. Tommy Derrah’s turn (in drag) as a clueless, booze-swilling society matron ends up being a showcase for some truly masterful acting. Evelyn Howe’s children’s television performer, who becomes a foul-mouthed tyrant when the camera is off, also has great potential on its own.

Michael Underhill’s awe-shucks, all-American man with an odd attachment to a stuffed monkey is another character (and performance) worthy of more stage time. Greg Maraio also brings great substance and creepy deviance to the already sexually-charged goings on.

The sum of the whole is not greater than the parts, however, and “Necessary Monsters” suffers from its own shortcomings. Still, it might be fun to see it again just to try to figure it out.

If you go

“Necessary Monsters”

Through Jan. 3

BCA Calderwood Pavilion

527 Tremont St., Boston

$25 - $61

617-933-8600

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www.SpeakEasyStage.com

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