Roberto Zucco

This examination into the mind of a serial killer offers lots of atmosphere but little insight

Cutting Ball's production of Roberto Zucco, by the French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltès, has a keen sense of atmosphere: a foggy night outside a Paris prison, when the murderer Roberto Zucco escapes; the gloomy, green-lit Métro stop where he meets one of his nervous victims; the sun-shot morning when Zucco walks out on the prison roof and stands above a crowd of onlookers like a Nietzschean Übermensch. Stage pictures, though, aren't the same things as plays. Most of director Rob Melrose's actors aren't subtle enough to keep up the delicate atmosphere, and the episodic script fails to maintain suspense. Koltès tried to explore the mind of a serial murderer without using the conventions of psychological drama; instead, he offers a lens of philosophy and myth. Melrose and his set designer, Michael Locher, have given the lens a high polish for this smallish production at Theater Rhino, and it's nice of Cutting Ball to treat the Bay Area to such a rarely performed playwright. Still, with the exception of a couple of solid performances, the show fails to give us more than a comic-book killer, caught in a series of colorful frames.

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