Eno exalts in capital letters and quotation marks. Raw and unfiltered, Pain is the life force, or as close as we're going to get. Sure, life sucks, but, as Eno (mesmerizing), Parker (spectacular) and director Jason Nodler (precise) encapsulate, the alternative is so much worse and nowhere near as frightfully sardonic. God help us...somebody help us...anybody?
Maher tantalizes with swirling bits about the nature of creativity, grief, the endless universe, the physical world, the theater. Even Emily Dickinson gets a shoutout. This very short play - no more than 40 minutes - is both crystal and opaque. Images can be concrete and hard, then shattered by hazy contemplation and high-flying concepts. It's certainly unique, a thinking man's vaudeville. You won't soon forget it.
At the end of Lisa D'Amour's provocative, spiky, prize-winning Detroit, suburban middle class couple Mary and Ben (Mischa Hutchings and Ben Miller) face their own apocalypse. All they have left among the burned out ruins of their American Dream is each other. It's not a rosy picture.
It wouldn't be summer in Houston without a crazy-quilt vaudeville from Tamarie Cooper and those Catastrophic troopers on a sublimely goofy warpath. Superbly wrapped (thank you Ryan McGettigan and Eric Marsh for those '50s snowflakes and colorful wash), Christmas is the best present ever. You don't even have to shake it to find out what's in it, it'll shake you.
In an exceedingly postmodern riff on Thornton Wilder's classic Our Town, Eno's world is bleakly comic. Laughing in the dark, you might say. Missed connections occur in every impressionistic scene mainly through deliciously wicked non sequiturs - and Eno is a master of this jagged syntax.
Cooper and Scott discover every crumb of hurt, deception, and unrequited love required for Shawn's mordant play to take effect as well as it does. They tread lightly between comedy and out-and-out tragedy as they dissect the everyday little shocks that a relationship, married or otherwise, is forever heir to. No one really listens, Shawn says, no one pays attention. But can you blame them, when what's hurled at them is so vile, so hurtful?
If man's wretched existence ever needed a finer hand to paint comic despair, look no further than director Jason Nodler with his quartet of superlative interpreters all in the service of the apocalyptic vision from Samuel Beckett.