Last weekend, I went to see Across a Little Red Marker at Eclectic Theater and there were only three people in the audience, including me. That's a shame. I've seen plenty of worse shows with bigger audiences. This one deserves more attention.
Set along the Washington-Canada border in the 1980s, this taut little thriller by Jim Moran has a cinematic quality—tight lighting to illuminate one small corner of the stage at a time, sharp blackouts to punctuate a joke or a threat, and eccentric small-town characters that wouldn't be out of place in movies by the Coen brothers or David Lynch.
Lisa Carswell plays an earnest and dutiful border patrol agent with a rebellious son and a drinking problem. Her soldier-husband disappeared during the Vietnam War and jumps into her consciousness at odd moments—like when she's drunkenly flirting with the immigrant bartender at the Suicide King, a bar along the border that lives in a liminal zone, legally speaking. People get away with stuff at the Suicide King.
Across a Little Red Marker opens with this border-patrol agent inspecting a wooden statuette that her new life-insurance agent (David Foubert) is bringing back from Canada. The insurance man's constant tic of a laugh is an immediate red flag, the keyhole through which we enter this whole murderous mystery. Directed by Jane Ryan, Marker has its amateurish elements (a few too many surrealistic monologues by a madwoman who carries around a cage of grasshoppers, some uncomfortable and hesitant acting in a few of the later scenes), but this world premiere is a frisky and entertaining piece of work. If there is justice in the theater world, it will be tinkered with and then picked up by bigger companies in other cities.