Are you in the mood for an old-fashioned parlor game of “who’s conning whom?”
None of the three female characters in Victor L. Cahn’s Villainous Company are to be trusted, you see, and unless they are not what they claim to be, a lot of their dialogue rings false. Or perhaps it is playwright Cahn who is doing the conning and we in the audience are the conned.
Whatever the case, Primal Forces’ area premiere of Cahn’s 2015 play is divertingly performed by Elizabeth Price, Rita Cole and Anna Lise Jensen. So much so that you will probably be driving home, sorting out what you have just seen before it begins to unravel with unlikely motives and outright improbabilities. Still, if you just go with the narrative flow, Villainous Company makes a reasonably entertaining, intermissionless 80-minute mind game.
It begins on a rainy afternoon, as Claire (Price) returns to her expensively appointed home from a shopping trip. Discovering that she has left one of her packages at the store, as she is calling the store, cashier Tracy (Cole) arrives at her door with the wayward package.
Tracy insinuates herself into the house, demands a drink and starts interrogating Claire about her shopping habits. In fact, as Tracy soon claims, she is really a security guard at the shopping center, who has long been eying Claire, suspecting her of fencing stolen goods.
At this point, your skepticism antennae should be rising. Why on earth hasn’t Claire politely yet firmly insisted that Tracy leave? (If you are scoring, you get no points for “because then there would be no play.”)
Eventually, Joanna (Jensen), Claire’s friend and possible accomplice, enters and the cat-and-mouse game becomes three-pronged. Joanna takes umbrage at Tracy’s accusations, in a way that makes her professed innocence all the more unlikely.
After much prodding by Tracy, Claire opens the package, which contains a rather ordinary clock and – more significantly – a key. Chances are that the key goes to a locker or safe deposit box containing heist money, but how it got in the package, how Tracy got hold of it and what happened to the deposit box’s contents are among the hanging questions as the plot unravels.
Try sorting out the clues if you must, or simply sit back and relish the three interwoven performances, cleverly orchestrated by director Genie Croft. Despite her character’s name, Price’s Claire is deliciously opaque, but surely not the conventional retiree she claims to be.
Jensen’s Joanna has a sarcastic edge, quick to push back against Tracy’s accusations. Much of the play’s humor comes from Tracy (Cole), who – in the most far-fetched, but nonetheless enjoyable sequences – submits to a strip search to prove she is not wearing a wire.
Credit goes to Dustin Hamilton for his upscale set design and to whoever found the convincingly expensive artifacts that are displayed in the living room’s niches and cabinets. Of course, these props are not really what they appear to be, just as these three characters are not.
VILLAINOUS COMPANY, Primal Forces at Sol Theatre, 3333 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Through Sunday, Jan. 12. $40. 866-811-4111.