VALPARAISO

This Don DeLillo play intensifies one's awareness of the multimedia barrage, humankind's impossible and solipsistic search for self and truth in such a world, and the enormous value of theatre to hold up the mirror to both.

Matthew Wilder's withering, relentless production is bound to attract academia, which views DeLillo as the American James Joyce, as well as the MTV generation, used to being assailed by imagery and unbothered by the impression that it seems to go nowhere. It's not until the second act that the scattershot impressions thus far laid on the viewer begin to make sense; they do so with stunning absurdist impact, abetted by Sarah Brown's costumes.

Valparaiso concerns a hapless middle-aged businessman named Michael Majeski, ably portrayed by Matt Kautz. Through his own lack of attentiveness and airline incompetence, Majeski, who intends to go to Valparaiso in Indiana, is flown to same-name locations in Florida and Chile, resulting in his instant media-darling celebrity. As DeLillo aptly points out, "Off-camera lives are unverifiable."

Majeski meets his nemeses in relentless, salacious talk-show co-hosts Delfina Treadwell and Teddy Hodell, portrayed by Shonda R. Dawson and Walter Murray. Lisel M. Gorell displays an astonishing range as Majeski's unfulfilled, likely psychotic wife. Sonny Perez impresses as the Interviewer. Others in the somewhat uneven company are Nicole Monica as Interviewer and Kimberly Colburn, Laura Falkner, Kay Hulbert, and Jennifer Martino as the Chorus: funny, apt, and cautionary as airline stewards.

"Valparaiso," presented by Sledgehammer Theatre at St. Cecilia's Playhouse, 1620 Sixth Ave., Downtown San Diego. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. June 9-July 7. $18-20. (619) 544-1484.