Death Tax can't overcome implausible plot points | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Death Tax can't overcome implausible plot points 

Lucas Hnath's drama feels overheated but undercooked at Redtwist.

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click to enlarge Death Tax

Death Tax

Courtesy of the artist

Toward the back end of Lucas Hnath's 90-minute series of overheated monologues, Todd, a nursing home supervisor, tells Tina, a nurse, to destroy some legal papers. It's meant to be an extremely high-stakes convo: If the docs aren't shredded, they both could go to jail. There is yelling and tears and gnashing of teeth as it becomes apparent that while it is 2010, Tina and Todd have not yet discovered e-mail. Hnath has Issues he wants to monologize about, and he's not about to let a canyon-wide plot hole like the ubiquity of electronic communication get in his way.

Thus, it never occurs to Tina or Todd that a lawyer somewhere has copies of these potentially catastrophic papers. It's a problem throughout. Hnath's dialogue purports to deal with substantial issues. It fails because when pesky matters of this-would-never-happen-in-real-life get in the way of a drama presented as realism, Hnath simply buries truth under mundane, wordy hyperbole about life, death, family, and money. There's not a lot director Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary or her earnestly overwrought cast can do. So: No e-mail, even though it's 2010. And: Tina bars her patient Maxine's (unnamed) daughter from visiting and unnamed daughter accepts this, not because there is any reason she should, but because she has her own monologue to deliver. I could list more examples, but I'm running out of words and patience. Hnath does explain some things. There's a lot of "It is 2010. I am a nurse. I am in a hospital room" exposition. Death, taxes, and family are the stuff of great drama. But not when the drama would suffocate if the plot holes were sewn up.  v

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