This past week included the 14th anniversary of Oklahoma City, and the 10th of Columbine -- terrorism is always in the news, even when it isn't fresh, and those simple shorthand names are all you need to evoke the memories of such bizarrities.
Playwright Robert Isenberg plugs into that gut recognition with Carbomb, the fictional tale of one such incident, of the Irish variety. Listed as a "world premiere," and presented by the Duquesne University Red Masquers, the production featuring a student cast directed by John E. Lane Jr. is really still a "work in progress," wobbly not just with the accents but also its lack of clarity.
The play revolves, and evolves, around three cousins, beginning with a sort of Waiting for Godot meets Of Mice and Men as the impatient Liam (Chris Brozetti) exchanges cryptic dialogue and long pauses with Patrick (a likable Jason Bingaman as Lenny au Gogo). But then long-lost cousin Derrick (Ash Halli, appropriately spastic) shows up with his plot to explode a van as the British prime minister's motorcade passes through their peaceable village.
Huh? How did such a crazy, incredible scheme come to be planned now, when the worst of the Irish "troubles" are long over -- as Liam says, "a history lesson"? There is a flashback attempting to explain the setup, but it's difficult to discern whether the scene is intended as the hallucination of a schizophrenic, or some stab at reality, with equal parts malice and caprice. Its taciturn psychopath (TJ Firneno) and zaftig dominatrix (Gail Hofbauer) are less coherent than, say, the beguiling IRA recruiter of Richard Thompson's song "Guns Are the Tongues."
Isenberg (who's a frequent CP contributor) works plenty of honest laughs into Carbomb, especially at the would-be terrorists' silly arguments, mock-Druidical references and general bumbling. Alas, the play is better at evoking the Three Stooges than at re-creating a palpable sense of horror. The ending is dramatically tidy, ending on a positive note. Even there, Carbomb seems to have an important message, but it doesn't yet know how to say it.
Carbomb continues through Sat., April 25. The Duquesne University Red Masquers at Peter Mills Auditorium, Rockwell Hall, Duquesne University campus, Uptown. 412-396-4997.