Theater Schmeater, 1500 Summit, 325-6500, $12 free for anyone under 18 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.; 2 p.m. matinees Sun., Nov. 25 and Sun., Dec. 9 ends Fri., Dec. 14
IN JOHN MOE'S Subterranean Homesick, Tom (a slimy, squinting Alex Samuels) is an ineffectual, basement- living Portland slacker who defines ultimate happiness as a killer stash of pot. He's content to slouch from bed to couch to kitchen and back again, without asking for more than a little company from his morose sister, Helen (Terisa Greenan), and his roommate, the career-minded Carter (Stephen Loch). Along comes Jack (Jerry Lloyd), a slick family friend who decides it's time these kids got their lives together.
But, really, why on earth would Jack care? It's a question that begins slowly at the back of your mind and builds, especially as some deadly threats and tensions pile up. When the answer finally arrives, all the weird little tangents flow into place—"Aaaah!" you say to yourself, "That's what the writer was aiming for."
Pity it doesn't have anything to do with the characters that playwright Moe put on stage. I'm all for cool, clever writing, but amusing people and a provocative ending don't make a compelling play unless the stuff in between is interesting as well. Too often, things happen in director Basil Harris' production based on what's needed to have the denouement make sense, not because they further our understanding of who the characters are: repercussions from the sudden, nasty turn of events right before intermission are abandoned until the end; scientific readings on the nature of earthquakes don't have any link to scenes that precede or follow them; and a romantic relationship between Carter and Helen is more plot device than genuine sexual spark.
Playwright Moe possesses a twisted but wonderfully sincere take on pop culture—in a highlight, Carter riffs on the true nature of the bombshells-and-aliens movie, Starship Troopers—and I hope he at least takes the spirit of slacker Tom with him as he continues to prod the underbelly of the pristine and quirky Northwest. He should spare us, though, any plot propped up by half-baked characters.