Ennui's a bitch in Jessica Hatlo's new play. Its central conceit—based on actual events—is a heroine so terrified of real life that she retreats to the squalid familiarity of the bathroom in the apartment she shares with her boyfriend. In the hands of WET's top-notch performers and tech crew, Stuck is more than a cautionary tale of slackerdom: It's a modern horror story.
Washington Ensemble Theatre, 608 19th Ave. E., 325-5105, washingtonensemble.org. $10-$25. 7:30 p.m. Thurs.-Mon. Ends April 9.
Amy and Danny (Kay Nahm and Alex Matthews) have stripped down their lives to the essentials of pizza, soda, and 24-hour cable TV, with Amy unwilling (and finally unable) to leave her perch on the toilet. She is a case study in retreat, courageous enough only to bully her boyfriend and pontificate from the pot. Forget about opening the bills or communicating with her alarmed kinfolk.
Danny, on the other hand, is a fellow who just might make something of himself one day—if only he weren't shackled to Amy by guilt and a prodigious talent for enabling. Since she won't surrender her seat on the throne, he uses the shower or corner convenience store. At one critical moment, we watch him employ a paper bag. Never underestimate the distance to which a man will stoop to accommodate the woman he loves. And yet he's tempted to stray by a flirtatious snoop of a landlady (Jill Snyder-Marr), who sees more in Danny than he does in himself.
Hatlo enlivens the icky claustrophobia with visits from a succession of spectral advisors (all played by Chris Maslen and Qadriyyah Shabazz) straight out of Amy's imagination and TV Guide. Howie Mandel, Dr. Phil, Oprah, and others try to talk her down from the porcelain tree. When she sings a forlorn melody, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson give her the bad news that no one buys her pity-party routine.
So what is the point here? Everyone has a "stuck" place in their lives, Hatlo implies. It's a place where we hate to look, where resentments and broken dreams are stacking up, where we simply observe their accumulation in mute despair. What Hatlo has written is amplified tenfold through Sarah E.R. Grosman's direction and a well-conceived lighting scheme that squeezes the tiny apartment into a smaller space with each scene. After the show, Amy's plight has spread like contagion, and Hatlo's central question will nag you: What growing pile of crap you won't deal with are you sitting on?