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Friday, August 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 65.0° F  Thunderstorm Light Rain
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Ass backwards
Funnel is a halting crime drama in reverse

Broom Street Theater has long been an advocate for new works by emerging playwrights, and for this it deserves kudos. The downside, of course, is that emerging playwrights (especially when they also direct) are often poor judges of their own work. Such is the case with Ethan Mutz's crime drama Funnel.

Telling the story in reverse chronology (a conceit that Mutz freely admits he borrowed from the 2000 cult film Memento), the play begins and ends with a pair of confessions that serve as the dramatic parentheses for the action. The intervening tale has its intriguing moments, but there are several impediments to the success of the story, not least of them being Mutz's love affair with his own words. He seems compelled to write every speech (and these are speeches, not natural dialogue) as though it were his last, seemingly afraid that the audience might not stay until the (supposedly) surprise ending.

This insecurity handcuffs the actors, who work diligently, if inconsistently and occasionally inaudibly, on their playwright's behalf. Of particular note is Daniel Torres-Rangel as Anthony Czobosta, an attorney who may have committed a horrible crime. His naturalistic style belies his emotional intensity, and he is the only performer who manages to find any rhythm in the halting script.

A large part of the action takes place in a courtroom, that most unforgiving environment for even the most experienced writer, let alone a novice. There are so many technical inaccuracies and superfluous exchanges in these scenes that one has to fight the urge to shout "Objection!"

Overwrought and overwritten as it is, Funnel does make some interesting points about the nature of revenge, even when shackled with painful platitudes like "Hate is a powerful word" or "Never is a long time." If Mutz has the courage to attempt such a difficult maiden project, we can only hope he will have the necessary fortitude to revise the script and, next time, let an objective judgment guide his words.

Funnel, Broom Street Theater, through Oct. 28

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