Adam Rapp's new play, Faster, at the Rattlestick Theatre is chock full of information about the end of the world. And it's more than once during the play that it seems the end of the world truly is at hand.
Clocking in at two hours and ten minutes (with an intermission), Faster nonetheless seems very slow indeed. It possesses a truly bizarre combination of elements that could easily have been picked out of a hat for their symbolic importance, but to Rapp's credit he makes elements as diverse as a plastic pail, a handgun, Count Chocula cereal, and a song about Florida orange juice all sort of work together. Make no mistake, Faster isn't a good play, but there is some cohesion to be found from the combination of its elemental pieces.
The only thing that is absolutely clear is that, one way or another, the end of the world has come to Chicago and its suburbs. When the play begins, the area is being tormented by a vicious drought and blistering heat, causing discomfort and death at every turn. Holed up in the basement of a house are the mentally-challenged Stargyl (Robert Beitzel), his brother Skram (Chris Messina), and their friend Kitchin (Mtume Gant).
The three of them have found a young girl (Fallon McDevitt Brooking) whom they keep in the boiler room and feed cereal, and who, when she speaks at all, says little more than words that predict dire consequences when the rain once again falls. And, sure enough, just before the first act ends, it does, and the dire consequences do indeed arise.
Of the most severe of those consequences is Faster's second act, which is an order of magnitude less comprehensible than the first. Yet, it somehow comes across as more entertaining, with a bevy of significant laughs, mostly due to Roy Thinnes and the disciplined comic touches he brings to the proceedings. Since one of his major jobs is to present the play's climactic moment in the form of a poetry recitation, his contribution must not be overlooked.
Nor must the contribution of David Korins, whose striking set depicting the slummish basement, sets the mood from the instant you enter the theater. (His set alone tells you far more about the characters than most of their dialogue.) Jeff Croiter's lighting of the set is excellent for appropriateness, but it's dim throughout and only really brightly lit at the curtain call.
The actors are decent enough. Thinnes, in a very small role, is the particular standout of the cast, but Beitzel's Stargyl is almost sympathetic, and Gant's almost-religious Kitchin is a breath of fresh air in a play in desperate need of it. Messina's characterization is impeccably formed, but his role is the most embarrassing, with unnecessary full frontal nudity, glue sniffing, and even simulated masturbation. No, the director, Darrell Larson, isn't to blame for that - that's all more or less in the script.
Larson's work is decent, but he's just taking Rapp's cues and running with them. Even Larson can't disguise the fact that Faster is one of those plays that wants so hard to be about something, that it strains under the weight of too many elements until it is about nothing at all.