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Presented by and at Rattlestick Theatre, 224 Waverly Place, NYC, Sept. 8-Oct. 6.

Three lowlifes mark time in a dingy basement. Stargyl cowers in a corner, emaciated and mute. Skram taunts and torments him, taking time out to masturbate and to grind his semen into the floor with his shoe. Kitchin more or less tries to mediate between them. It seems they have kidnapped a little girl, and are waiting for a "cat from Oswego" to whom they propose to sell her. But will he come? (Echoes of Beckett.) In Act II, a new character appears; is he the cat from Oswego? (More Beckett, plus Pinter.) And why does he call Skram "Larry"? (Pinter again. That basement is also very Pinter.)

But Adam Rapp, the author of "Faster," has more in mind than a Beckett-Pinter knockoff. Amid the encircling grunge and the gutter language, he aims for mystical symbolism. There are hints of apocalypse: thunder, a bullhorn in the street, a river running backwards. The kidnapped girl appears, utterly unafraid, serene and radiant in a wedding veil. She is clearly a supernatural figure, and so is the putative Oswegan, who can turn lights on and off from a distance with a flick of the wrist, and who acts as a sort of deus ex machina.

"Faster" is more than somewhat pretentious, and it doesn't hang together very well, but the evening is saved by the intensity of life that, under Darrell Larson's galvanic direction, the actors bring to it. As Skram, Chris Messina dominates the first act, exploding with hostile energy, full out at every moment—physically, vocally, emotionally—yet without strain or overkill. He is ably supported by Robert Beitzel as Stargyl and Mtume Gant as Kitchin, and in the second act he is matched by Roy Thinnes as the mysterious visitor, wielding a quieter kind of menace. Scenery by David Korins and costumes by Kaye Voyce are deeply squalid, evoking filthy, messy, degraded lives; sound designer Eric Shim provides convincing thunder; Jeff Croiter's lighting makes darkness visible.

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