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Nothing Sacred About "In God's Hat"

‘IN GOD’S HAT’

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

When: Through Oct. 13

Where: Profiles Theatre Main Stage, 4139 N. Broadway

Tickets: $35-$40

Info: (773) 549-1815; www.profilestheatre.org

Run time: 95 minutes with no intermission

No one living on this planet at the moment needs to be reminded that people are capable of doing horrifically savage things to each other. But where do you go from there?

To be sure, you will not find the answer in Rhett Rossi’s mock-gothic, blood-and-brain-bashing psychodrama, “In God’s Hat,” Profiles Theatre’s bizarre choice to open its unquestionably well-earned 25th season. The production, though expertly done and energetically directed by Joe Jahraus, is a heavy-handed exercise in violence porn, and a waste of fine talent and resources.

Sure, you could make a case that this story of two brothers — Mitch (Larry Neumann, Jr.), a child molester just released from prison after 10 years, and his younger sibling, Roy (Darrell W. Cox), who has failed to make much of his life — is in the Biblical tradition. Or you could claim Rossi’s play has echoes of Martin McDonagh’s savage, theater of cruelty-style black comedies. But that would be far too generous.

The story? Roy, who has had no communication with Mitch during his incarceration, has driven from their family home in Oklahoma to pick his brother up at a New York prison. On the way back they stop at an isolated motel (Shaun Renfro’s clever, ideally angled set makes terrific use of the Profiles space), only to be pursued by Arthur (John Victor Allen), another just-released prisoner. Arthur also happens to be the crazed, heavily tattooed Aryan Nation white supremacist who attacked and tormented fellow inmate Mitch for years.

Arthur ends up bringing out the worst in Roy. Mitch certainly doesn’t have a good time of it either. And before it’s all over, the brothers also receive a visit from the mysterious Early (Bruce Cronander), an older man, also an ex-con and Aryan “brother,” who looks a whole lot like the devil.

Everything Rossi has to say here is very old news: That the abused become abusers; that certain forms of sexual deviance may never be expunged; that prison is not a good source of rehab; that brothers can devour each other in love-hate relationships; that family, no matter how warped, is all we’ve got; that in some form or another people dig their own graves. As for the sicko bludgeoning: The audience (but not me) laughed as much as it winced.

Neumann is a wonderful actor and wrings whatever poignancy is to be had out of the play, but he deserves far better material. Cox uncharacteristically mumbles much of his dialogue. Allen and Cronander are first rate villains as two very different sides of the same psychopathic coin.

By far the most redeeming element of the whole production is Jeffrey Levin’s haunting music, played live by a superb band perched above the stage in a barbed wire cage. Just wish there had been more music.

EMAIL: hweiss@suntimes.com

TWITTER: @HedyWeissCritic