No matter how far you run, or how hard you fight, death will catch up. And what do you lose trying to outrun it? That's the question explored in writer/director Bob Fisher's fascinating, disturbing and ultimately frustrating new play "The Meat Locker."
Meatlocker (Dave Goss), called “Meat,” is a traveling boxer, burdened by visions of the demonic Stitch (Adam Dodds), who threatens that if he ever goes down for the count, he'll die. Manny the Manager (David Lykins) doesn't share Meat's delusion, but does what he can to help them get by, touring from city to city. But they've still ended up in Bumville, where Benny the Bookie (Roy Gonzales) decides who takes a dive in the ring, and when. He won't take no for an answer, and neither will his enforcer, Rudy the Rhino (Gabe Garza).
This is a dark, pulpy tale, full of noirish paranoia, but with more explicit violence. Fisher has a way with disturbing characters - the seedy Radio Howard (Vinny Lacey) and Gonzalez's twitchy Benny are particularly memorable - and there are scenes where the tension and disgust he creates in the audience are palpable. The low-ceilinged basement space and the truly unsettling sound design (uncredited) help significantly.
But these are only isolated moments. The show's impact is hurt by the fact that the central ideas are never really developed over the course of the play, leading to a lot of repetition, and the characters have a few too many poetic monologues whose connection to the main action is hazy at best. And the many lengthy blackouts between scenes don't help.
It's a real shame, because the sections that work are exceptionally effective. With some editing this could be an evening that really gets under your skin, but right now boredom and fascination fight to a draw.