Jack Oakes Theatre, 2820 NE Sandy, Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, 450-9939, $10-12
Like Brian Young's October 2001 production, Fateful Encounters, Search and Destroy is a twisty, pulpy, Hitchcock/Chandler/Tarantino-inspired thriller play loaded with drugs, babes, suits, gunfire, and a cast full of shady characters.
The play features Martin Mirkheim (Saunders Beckel), an unemployed loafer who owes the IRS $47,000 in back taxes. One day, he gets inspired by a book called Daniel Strong, and sets out to make a film of it. He has no money, and winds up going down a sordid trail of intrigue to raise cash, including a stop with the book's author Luther Waxling, the shifty businessman, Kim, and a Honduran drug dealer. Needless to say, things go sour and murder ensues.
Young's productions are labors of love. He is heavily involved at every step of the process--producing, directing, acting, and often writing--and his personality coats the resulting play like the suits his characters wear. Search is smooth and languid; it takes its time. The blocking is minimal; usually the actors just stand around and talk, which combined with the slow pacing can at times drag things down a bit. Still, the story is good enough that things never get boring, and Young's ragtag ensemble has a goofy and endearing charm. It's not made up of polished pros, but earnest amateurs who, like Young, are in it for fun. As Martin, Saunders Beckel has a perpetual dazed look and a jerky delivery, as if he is struggling to remember his lines. As the befuddled Martin, however, he kind of works.
Search and Destroy is ultimately entertaining, if not particularly innovative. Young is good mimic. He copies a filmstyle and puts it in a theater, but he doesn't make it theatrical. His plays are movies without the special effects that make movies shine. They're entertaining because they imitate movies and movies are entertaining, but whether they're worth paying $12 for, as opposed to $8 for an actual movie, is debatable. JUSTIN SANDERS