Anyone who has ever wondered about being stuck in an elevator might be intrigued by “Caged” at Theatre Banshee, a guest offering by Mean Machine Productions and Georganne Aldrich Heller.
Dermot Davis’ two-hander observes complete strangers thrown together late at night, after the power fails in a high-rise.
Joshua (Johnny O’Callaghan) is a twinkle-eyed Irishman whose affable demeanor hides a host of Catholic contradictions. Ruth (Elizabeth Lande), a tightly wound Jewish lawyer, quickly erupts into claustrophobia.
After spiky comic interaction for the first quarter, right on cue, Joshua and Ruth succumb to steamy sex, and things get increasingly fraught, to put it mildly.
Director Tim Byron Owen competently keeps things moving forward on designer Dan Conroy’s abstract set, the sense of time grinding to a halt aided by Bill Froggatt’s Muzak-laden sound.
Both actors do yeoman work, considering the issue-driven archetypes they have to play. It’s one thing to have trapped, attracted opposites falling into intimacy, twice (aided by Josh’s convenient bottle of whiskey and cassette player with jigs). It’s something else to have their interface devolve into overloaded social allegory in the name of redemption.
Samuel Beckett, broken celibacy vows, bad parenting, the subjugation of women, faith vs. agnosticism and much more emerge as the action spirals toward its melodramatic climax.
Multiple speeches need trimming, each character has a dark secret that is fairly foreseeable, and the “Twilight Zone”-esque final twist doesn’t exactly land with earned impact.
In form and ambitions, “Caged” hearkens back to “Dutchman," though by the midpoint it resembles “No Exit” — “This must be what purgatory is like" is one line that hints at where rethinking would be beneficial.
However, it does have an effect, since henceforth this reviewer will whenever possible take the stairs.
“Caged,” Theatre Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 22. $20. (800) 838-3006 or caged.brownpapertickets.com. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.