Under the banner of film director Barry Levinson, playwright Howard Korder's tale of the moral corruption of a flawed visionary, originally produced locally in 1996, sports a new cast and a pair of new directors (Kent Dalian & Jeremy Renner). Unfortunately, Korder has not solved the basic weaknesses inherent in the script itself. Moreover, Dalian and Renner fail to create any stageworthy continuity out of the play's 16 choppy scenes, which chronicle the odyssey of Martin Mirkheim (John David Hartfield), who eschews his career as a small-time Florida-based entrepreneur to fulfill his inner quest for ultimate self-realization.

Under the banner of film director Barry Levinson, playwright Howard Korder’s tale of the moral corruption of a flawed visionary, originally produced locally in 1996, sports a new cast and a pair of new directors (Kent Dalian & Jeremy Renner). Unfortunately, Korder has not solved the basic weaknesses inherent in the script itself. Moreover, Dalian and Renner fail to create any stageworthy continuity out of the play’s 16 choppy scenes, which chronicle the odyssey of Martin Mirkheim (John David Hartfield), who eschews his career as a small-time Florida-based entrepreneur to fulfill his inner quest for ultimate self-realization.

Attempting to follow the Ayn Rand-like self-justification precepts of motivational guru Dr. Waxling (Craig Stark), Martin sets out to seek funding to turn Waxling’s philosophical novel into a movie. His journey soon descends into a quicksand of degradation, despair and horror. Despite generally capable performances by the 10-member cast, Korder’s plot is so poorly constructed that it is impossible to empathize with Martin’s plight, let alone care what happens to him.

The work’s main weakness lies in the way the protagonist is realized, despite a boyishly charming, multilayered portrayal by Hartfield. The playwright fails to develop Martin’s quest, allowing his hero to simply plop from one improbable scene to another. There is no real cause for his inevitable failure, no tragic downspin to Martin’s character. Right from the beginning, he wholeheartedly embraces all the sins: deception, fraud, seduction, theft, murder and bad screenplays. And his eventual emergence at play’s end as victorious over all his misdeeds is not justified on any level. It isn’t even irony; it’s nothing.

Within the production, however, there are some noteworthy performances. Renner is excellent as the low-keyed sociopath, Kim, whose warped view of Dr. Waxling’s concepts allows him to justify any atrocity, even murder. Adding a bit of levity to the proceedings is Mandy Ingbar, as Dr. Waxling’s off-centered receptionist, Marie, who seductively offers to arrange an intro to Dr. Waxling if Martin agrees to read her “slasher” screenplay.

Kent Dalian is quite effective as Ron, the fast-talking, low-class “goodfellow” wannabe who sets up a drug deal for Martin and Kim to finance the movie deal. Also lending solid support are: Craig Stark as the cut-rate guru Dr. Waxling; Lawrence Faljean as his always-smiling, always-in-control assistant, Roger; Jorge Luis Abreu in a brief appearance as the reptilian drug dealer, Pamfilo; and John Kozeluh as a hyper, coke-driven upscale suburbanite.

The bare-bones production values barely assist the staging.

Search & Destroy

Tamarind Theater; 99 seats; $12 top

Production

Forest Park Prods. Inc. in association with Barry Levinson presents a play in two acts by Howard Korder. Directed by Kent Dalian & Jeremy Renner. Supervising producer, Amy Jones-DeMar; producers, John David Hartfield & Renner.

Cast

Cast: John David Hartfield (Martin), Jeremy Renner (Kim), Kent Dalian (Ron), David Kelsey (Accountant/Carling), Michelle Levinson (Lauren), Mandy Ingber (Marie), John Kazeluh (Robert), Lawrence Faljean (Roger), Craig Stark (Dr. Waxling), Jorge Luis Abreu (Pamfilo).
Scenic and sound designs, Renner; lighting design, Andrew Webberley. Opened Jan. 29, 1998; reviewed Feb. 7; runs until Feb. 22. Running time: two hours.

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