Murder and moral dilemmas course through Mark Borkowski's new play. In Head Hunter, screenwriter Casmir (Robert Haufrecht), after selling the exclusive rights of his screenplay to a big Hollywood producer, confesses what he has done to his cousin Salvatore (Bruno Iannone), a mob hit man. Enraged, Salvatore wants to get the screenplay's rights back to Casmir even if it means marking the producer for death. Meanwhile Casmir has to decide if one should kill for artistic integrity or do the right thing and remain penniless? Although the play at times becomes less focused than it should, the Common Basis Theatre Company gives yet another well-acted and executed (no pun intended) production.
A departure from the visceral lyricism of his brilliant double-billed
one-acts Before the Noise and Within the Skin of Saints,
produced last year by Common Basis, Head Hunter is both
a black comedy and a male-bonding drama in the vein of David Mamet
and Sam Shepard. In preference, the black comedy in the
play seemed the stronger of the two styles. The savagery of Salvatore's executions - as well as his justifications for the extreme actions - is at once over the top and very successful in horrifying the audience.
Where the play falters, though, is in the character of Casmir. It seems Borkowski isn't sure what Casmir wants: does he really want the producer dead, or does he want to find who killed his father, or does he want to write a new play? If the play dealt only with the through-line of killing the producer, making Casmir more active in the decision-making process, then the play would be cleaner and ultimately more satisfying.
Regardless, actor Robert Haufrecht did a fine job of capturing Casmir's contradictions. He seemed physically uneasy when having to deal with his violent cousin, but when talking about his father's death he was grounded in deep feeling. Iannone's performance was a stunner. He was as commanding in his menace as he was in his humanity. He spouted out both lines of low humor and profound insight with conviction and great comic timing.
In his debut as a director, Robert Stevens seemed at ease with the two actors, giving them ample room to inhabit the world of the play. Never did the play seem forced under his guidance; if anything, his direction gave the play a clarity sometimes lost in the writing. At times, however, the stage seemed a little too cluttered with activity.
The uncredited set added a nice touch of décor, and the
stage was well-lit by Tomoyuki Kato.
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Copyright 2000 Andrès J. Wrath