But this kind of play demands a specificity and consistency of tone in staging that equals the writing; in that respect, Scott Ellis' uneven production comes up short of the mark.

But this kind of play demands a specificity and consistency of tone in staging that equals the writing; in that respect, Scott Ellis’ uneven production comes up short of the mark.

Most stranded is Glenn, a sexy actor with a chiseled, weathered visage that seems made for concealing the secrets crucial to a play in which duplicity hangs in the air like the humidity at Cabo San Lucas — one of “Dark Rapture’s” frequent locations. Glenn never quite nails the itinerant soul of the character he plays, a rudderless Californian who fakes a fiery death and reinvents himself elsewhere.

TX: TX:A Second Stage presentation of a drama in two acts by Eric Overmyer. Directed by Scott Ellis. But Glenn isn’t the only actor circling rather than inhabiting a role. As a result, few moments in “Dark Rapture” have the insinuating, other-side-of-the-mirror creepiness of noir style.

The beginning is promising, as the theater throbs with the roar of flames consuming a Northern California hillside. Onstage, Ray (Glenn) watches the conflagration, joined by the mysterious Babcock (Dan Moran), a character who gets off on natural disasters, as he makes clear in an obscenity-laced riff.

The scene quickly shifts to Cabo, where Ray’s rich wife, Julia (Tomei), a wannabe producer, is having wild, drunken sex with a boy toy (Derek Smith). She returns to California to find home and husband toast — his ashes conveniently beyond identification. Also up in smoke — or so she claims to mobsters who aren’t convinced — is the $ 7 million she was going to use to start a production company.

The scenes shift breathlessly from California to Cabo to Seattle to New Orleans to a watering hole in Key West called the Smudgy Cockatiel. The still-alive Ray has an affair with Renee (Jennifer Esposito), who claims her Cuban father was the gunman on Dallas’ grassy knoll responsible for Kennedy’s assassination. The de-tails of Ray’s life change with the scenery.

In Florida, Ray takes up with Max (Ellen McElduff), a knowing blonde who delivers two of the play’s best riffs. McElduff, a veteran of similar work with the Mabou Mines theater company, is the evening’s best treat: She makes the heady combination of carnality, danger and moral vacancy look easy.

Less comfortable is Tomei, whose Julia comes across as too narcissistic and pouty to be a cool toughster.

Along with Moran and Smith, Joseph Siravo, Conan McCarty and Bruce MacVittie are good in multiple roles. Santo Loquasto’s dark, impressionistic set allows for a dizzying number of locales atmospherically lit by Natasha Katz. There’s also terrific work from Jennifer von Mayrhauser (costumes) and Tony Meola (sound).

As is always the case with this writer, more than a little pleasure is to be had. But in the end, the parts are more interesting than the whole. The tone here is off just enough to sabotage the darkness and the rapture.

Dark Rapture

Production

Dark Rapture (Second Stage Theater, New York; 108 seats; $ 42.50)

Crew

Sets, Santo Loquasto; lighting, Natasha Katz; costumes, Jennifer von Mayrhauser; sound, Tony Meola; music, Jeremy Grody; fights, David Leong; casting , Johnson-Liff Associates; associate producer, Carol Fishman; production stage manager, Elise-Ann Konstantin; stage manager, Delicia Turner; artistic director, Carole Rothman; producing director, Suzanne Schwartz Davidson. Opened May 23, 1996; reviewed May 22. Running time: 2 hours, 5 min.

With

Cast: Scott Glenn (Ray), Dan Moran (Babcock, Nizam), Marisa Tomei (Julia), Derek Smith (Danny, Tony), Joseph Siravo (Lexington, Mathis), Conan McCarty (Vegas, bartender), Bruce MacVittie (Ron, waiter, Scones, lounge singer), Jennifer Esposito (Renee, waitress), Ellen McElduff (Max). Playwright Eric Overmyer is a genre parodist with perfect pitch and an irresistible feel for telling detail. His "Dark Rapture" is a Technicolor sendup of film noir; this production features what on paper must have looked like a dream cast, headed by Marisa Tomei and Scott Glenn , two name film actors who continue to work in the theater.
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