History plays

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  January 29, 2010

Sprawled like Christopher Sly as the audience enters is a character called Salesman (Benjamin Evett), who's lifted less from Arthur Miller than from Glengarry Glen Ross, except that this guy's pushing not Florida real estate but the commodity of the title: get-out-of-Hell-free cards such as those hawked by the Church in the Middle Ages. Resurrected by a bartender and splashed out of his stupor, our huckstering hero looks to unload a "policy." So when Malcolm and Fleance wander into the bar and are overheard plotting regicide, God's own Fuller Brush man sees his chance. Meanwhile, in a Charlie Chaplin–esque bit, two nondescript English-looking gents sip tea in the same boîte and, noticing similarities in their manners, decide to trade lives. Complicating matters is that one of them is the targeted head of state.

Whether because he's an amoral Deity or because he wants to move product, Salesman's heavenly employer proves a thunderous proponent of free will. It's when his agent, ignoring that, starts trying to manipulate the murderous plans of lovers, royals, and evil advisers that all hell breaks loose — only to rewind and break loose again. What this means — and director Kate Warner, who previously staged the play at Dad's Garage in Atlanta, seems to think it has deeper implications — is murky. Still, at New Rep, the high jinks are merrily pulled off, and there's an enjoyably crass turn by Evett as a sort of working man's Prospero pulling strings — or maybe our legs.

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