You'll notice that the program to Itamar Moses' play The Four of Us features only two actors, despite the implications of the title; and then when you learn that the two characters are writers, you'll have a fairly good guess about where the two other characters come in.
But you won't predict that it will be as cleverly revealed as Moses plots it out. And even though Outcry Theatre's area premiere of the play ambles and it takes forever to arrive at the ending, it's really worth the wait.
Local theaters have done Moses' work, to acclaim (Bach at Leipzig at Circle Theatre) and others not so much (Back Back Back at Dallas Theater Center), and this 2008 play is better writing than both of those.
David (Duc Nguyen) and Benjamin (Chris Ramirez) met in camp, then went to college and spent time abroad in Prague together. David wanted to become a playwright, and Benjamin a novelist. They agree that if either gets published (or in David's cast, has a production), one will treat the other to dinner.
But friendly jealousy rears its ugly head when Benjamin gets to that goal first, and in a big way. Not only is his novel published, but it gets made into a film starring a popular celebrity. David will have to settle for a community theater production in Indiana.
The script time-jumps through their story, beginning when Benjamin finds out about the film option. What's clever about it is that the little things you'll pick up in their story, either from something that was mentioned or left unsaid, makes sense in the end. It's like whispering "a-ha."
Outcry debuted locally at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival this year with dark play, or stories for boys, and with this choice, director Becca Johnson-Spinos is out to prove that Outcry wants to jump into the local theater pool in a serious way. They also make a good call in using music by Denton band Seryn, considering that indie rock becomes part of the story and the friends' relationship. Video design, by Wade McDonald, is also effective.
Except that it's not quite ready. Both actors show great promise, and do a nice job with subtle revelations. But the character development still feels at the level of a good, solid college production, not quite ready for the professional stage. Nguyen imbues David with a bit too much physical quirkiness.
But it's a rewarding if overlong script, and Outcry's spare production takes a promising footstep into the area theater scene. That's worth celebrating.
◊ Here's a preview video of the production: