Dead Metaphor, George F Walker’s dark comedy about a young American man on the make who returns from the war in the Middle East looking for work only to find himself enmeshed in the conniving strategies of a Tea Party politician is asinine.
It makes for a night of solid, albeit not particularly thought-provocative middle-brow theatre for the well-heeled liberal masses.
The American Conservatory Theater‘s current production, helmed by Irene Lewis, does a wonderful job of giving Walker’s cleanly structured but vacuous play something approaching substance. This result is largely due to the efforts of the smart ensemble cast led by George Hampe as the war hero protagonist Dean, and Rene Augesen, in splendidly catty form as the campaigning arch-conservative candidate, Helen Denny. The rhythm of the play moves swiftly and the actors keep time perfectly, elicit laughs in all the right places and never over-act.
The main issue I have with Dead Metapahor besides the fact that it feeds Bay Area audiences a world view which they already know and love and thereby completely fails to challenge them in any way, is the playwright’s habit of going for easy targets to get laughs.
Tea-partyer Denny is thoroughly dislikable and hilariously lacking in any kind of moral compass. There’s no depth or nuance to this character at all. Meanwhile, the failing mental health of Dean’s father (played with nuance by Tom Bloom) provides too much cause for lame jokes revolving around old geezers with loud mouths and confused minds.
If only Walker could take seek inspiration from the play’s sharp shooting protagonist and take aim at more difficult and complex marks.