Playwright: Joseph Zettelmaier. At: Hubris Productions at the Greenhouse, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Phone: 773-404-7336;$25. Runs through: Dec. 17
When Latin and Greek were a mandatory part of school curriculum, children drew on Virgil and Homer for lessons in human conduct, but boys and girls nowadays are more likely to be guided by quasi-mythic sagas such as Star Warsthe groundbreaking cinematic epic whose popularity continues to engender an array of merchandise targeted at fans eager to share the make-believe. In Joseph Zettelmaier's play, a cache of this space-opera memorabilia, currently residing in a Kenner Toys warehouse, constitutes the quarry of four would-be thieves to whom an anonymous collector has promised, upon delivery of the stolen goods, riches beyond their wildest dreams.
Paying two million dollars for an assortment of games, costumes, dollsoops, "action figures"and other gewgaws may strike the uninitiated as absurd, but in heist thrillers and morality fables, the object of desire is less important than the value those who desire IMPOSE on it. These nerdy lifelong chumsDavid, the operation's planner, along with driver Max, navigator Carter and negotiator Kendraare disciples of the gospel according to George Lucas, and their proposed crime colored by personal issues, making it easy to lose focus.
Joseph Zettelmaier hints early in the play at the crises to come when a skeptical Kendra criticizes an episode in the six-film canon as "mindless heroism"meaning, victory without sacrifice. The title (taken from the Bible, First Corinthians 13:11) also foreshadows the theme, as the teenage-fantasy scenarios of the twentysomething comrades gradually give way to mishaps bringing down the wrath of their powerful patron. By the time real blood is spilled, the self-styled bandits must each decide the extent of their loyalty to one anotherand the more devout, the greater the temptation.
So which of these desperate pilgrims will go over to the Dark Side and which will risk their lives to save their friends? Audience members unversed in minutiae of the source material may miss a few nuances, but should have no trouble following a narrative firmly rooted in classical lore. The cast assembled by director Dennis Frymire for this Hubris Theatre production are likewise sensitive to the serious subtext underlying the deceptive frivolity, playing their roles with a committed intensity that quickly engages our emotions as it suspends our judgment. Treasure is in the eye of the beholder, after all, and well worth gambling everything to attain.