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Broken Gears Project Theatre caps off strong season with ‘The Hand’

In a bathroom, on a stage, in a house, in this city, an interesting encounter is taking place several nights a week. “The Hand,” currently onstage at Broken Gears Project Theatre, is a pseudo- absurdist satiric play that is certain to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

German Madrid’s Spanish play “La Mano” was premiered three years on the festival circuit to rave reviews.

BGPT enlisted Loren Roark to translate the play to English for this production.

The translation is stiff and lacks the European poetry that should accompany the style of the play’s content. A thriller at its core, “The Hand” is the story of a poor man who shows up in a wealthy man’s home claiming that he owes him something.

An element of interest that director Andy Baldwin devised was that the two actors Joey Folsom and Jeff Swearingen switch roles every night.

Folsom, who coincidentally just played the title character in “One-armed Man” at Kitchen Dog Theater, gave a cool, menacing performance as the rich man the night I saw the show. Swearingen, as the poor man, began as a dopey, fop and seamlessly developed into a sly, cunning avenger.

Jeff Swearingen and Joey Folsom switch roles every performance in "The Hand" onstage at BGPT through June 25.

It won’t be the favorite show of everyone in the audience. The situational elements are somewhat tenuous: a man shows up in another man’s bathroom demanding that his hand be returned.

The reaction of Folsom’s character is one of practiced, homoerotic ease – at first you wonder what is actually taking place and then you begin to think this has happened to him before. Why doesn’t he freak out?

But Baldwin has cleverly given these bizarre elements a comedic twist that hints at black comedy. The audience is allowed to determine how realistic this situation is meant to be. Is there a deeper meaning?

This question though is too obviously answered for my liking. Madrid waits until the tensest moment of the play to inject elements that resemble a political ‘think piece.’ This play promotes a very obvious dialogue about ownership and greed, but then arrogantly informs the audience of the appropriate solution.

The only other element that I found to be somewhat grating was that of the pre-recorded narration. The sound quality is not great and the information lacks any sort of necessity.

Curt Stiles, Baldwin and Elias Taylorson have crafted a visually pleasing show with a  working shower – a feat of which any low-budget theater company should be proud.

Then again, the artists at BGPT should pride themselves in an impressive six-show season with more hits than flops.

BGPT has one more 'Ten Buck Tuesday' this season, June 14. Tickets usually sell for $15.  "The Hand" runs 50 minutes. The theater is located in a small house at 3819 Fairmount St. (entrance on Shelby).