Zeitgeist Stage Company’s current production, “The Submission” contains some powerful, emotionally challenging moments that’ll make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat. Unfortunately, there are also moments that make you wish you had the ability to call for a rewrite or, at least, a fast forward button.
Despite the script’s shortcomings, the production itself is quite good, in large part because of the impressive performances by Aina Adler (Emilie) and Victor Shopov (Danny). The duo push each other’s buttons with such disturbing, passive-aggressive authenticity that it’s nearly impossible to figure out where you stand on the issues at the core of the story.
The plot involves a neurotic, gay, white playwright who writes a great play based on a bad experience he had with a verbally abusive teen on the subway. He enters the play into the Humana Festival of New Plays using the pseudonym Shaleeha G’ntamobi, hoping the implication of an African-American playwright will increase his chances of being accepted.
Of course it does, (there are no surprises in this incredibly predictable plot), so he then hires Emilie, an African-American actress to play the part of the playwright in exchange for a portion of the anticipated profit. Adler superbly charts Emilie’s journey from dismay at being asked to participate in this crazy scheme, to eager co-conspirator and finally outraged victim with some of the finest acting of the season.
It doesn’t hurt that Shopov matches her stellar performance with Danny’s painful journey of self-discovery that leaves the audience with disturbing questions about race, gender, orientation and the divisive nature of intolerance.
Playwright Jeff Talbot creates two other characters who, despite the best effort of Diego Buscaglia and Matthew Fagerberg, feel like annoying plot contrivances with about as much believability as cardboard cutouts. This, and the staggering predictability of the plot, render “The Submission” a tossup, despite the best efforts of Zeitgeist.
If you go
Through May 30
BCA Plaza Theatre
539 Tremont St., Boston
$25 – $30, Wednesday pay what you can