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How Dull Is Profanity at Undermain? There Are No Words

Bruce DuBose, Michael Federico and Alex Organ play brothers in Undermain's premiere of Profanity.
Courtesy Undermain Theatre

Undermain Theatre is presenting the world premiere of East Coast playwright Sylvan Oswald's Profanity, directed by Katherine Owens. The title could serve as a warning, for you will curse Undermain for choosing to produce this unremarkable drama and curse yourself if you've already bought tickets to it.

It's a damn shame fine actors Alex Organ, Bruce DuBose and Michael Federico have to tie themselves in knots trying to enliven characters so bleakly drawn as Profanity's Whitey, Gersh and Leo. Here are men as drab and empty as the dozens of beige metal filing cabinets standing like ugly sarcophagi on designer John Arnone's set in the catacomb-like theater space.

The men are brothers in Philadelphia in the 1950s, operating a failing real estate business whose only profits are from selling homes built on a sewage-soaked landfill. When one of the angry homeowners, Vivian (Shannon Kearns-Simmons), uses subterfuge to get a job in the office and access to files that will bring the brothers down ... look, you don't need to know more. Because Profanity isn't Glengarry Glen Ross or Ibsen's The Master Builder (which is a laugh riot compared to this thing). It's a journey to Dullsville. It's 90 minutes of dialogue like this: "It's probably a little rain or a leak or, um, did you spill?" Note the "um." There are a lot of "ums" in Oswald's humdrum conversations. Here's another gem, uttered by DuBose's character, the glum big brother, Gersh: "When the sun has set, it's the end of the day."

Really, 10 minutes in, you'll feel like you've been there all night. You'll want to scream all the obscenities you know just to get out of another fucking second of Profanity.


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