Playwright Anne Washburn's "The Small" at Red Eye focuses laser-like attention on life's slightest incidents -- a chance encounter in a store, a simple task like cutting a melon, a conversation with a friend -- with the result that these moments take on a mystifying weight and significance.
The play opens with Duncan (Chuck Deeter) sitting at his kitchen table, musing about the end of the world. Deeter lends the monologue just the right blend of casual chat and wonderment to conjure the skewed world of this piece. What follows over 70 minutes are snippets of Duncan's encounters with four other people as their lives overlap and intermingle.
There's Leah (Sigrid Sutter), who has accompanied her boyfriend, Marc (John C. Egan), to a small town in New Mexico and has taken a job at a health-food store that Duncan frequents. Sutter gives Leah a sense of wide-eyed innocence and eagerness to share life's oddities. As she and Duncan have a series of encounters over out-of-stock items, mysterious foodstuffs and a murky jar that seems to have something living in it, their conversations are dizzying with non sequiturs and unspoken expectations.
Miriam Must brings a comic edge to Lori, Duncan's former fiancée. David Roberts as Walt, one of Duncan's friends, strolls in intermittently, to pass the time of day or sing chantey-like songs.
The mundane jostles with the startling throughout this play, visualized most starkly when Leah cuts open a melon only to discover that it is filled with blood. Overlaying the entire piece is Wendy Smith's soundscape of odd, otherworldly noises.
"The Small" is a strange package, alternately intriguing and annoying. Under Steve Busa's direction, it ably captures the surreal within the most ordinary events and exchanges, but only scratches the surface of the comedy inherent in Washburn's work.
Lisa Brock writes regularly about theater.