“Nobody does something for nothing,” declares Maxine (Georgia Clinton), a bitter, delusional old woman nearing the end of her life in a respectable if impersonal eldercare facility. While she may not be as close to death as she thinks, she is right that the people in her tiny immediate circle –– caregiver Tina (Stormi Demerson), facility supervisor Todd (John Forkner), and Maxine’s daughter (Laurel Whitsett) –– all want something from the paranoid old lady, who happens to have a large fortune that will be made considerably smaller by a pending change in estate tax laws.
The latter plot thread is where playwright Lucas Hnath got the title for Death Tax, now receiving a vivid, astringent regional premiere courtesy Amphibian Stage Productions. Thanks to the insightful direction of Rene Moreno and a marvelous cast who deliver shrewd, muscular performances, Hnath’s darker-than-midnight comedy transcends the well-worn “family-squabbles-over-an-inheritance” stage meme. As the tightly paced show advances and layers desperate emotional stakes atop complex (and unpleasant) personalities, the play unexpectedly evolves into a prophetic glimpse at medical technologies that keep people alive indefinitely –– personal, social, and financial consequences be damned.
With Death Tax, the less said about plot dynamics the better. All you need to know is that Amphibian, as usual, casts the show impeccably and lets the performers hit you square in the forehead with the playwright’s hellish vision of immortality. “There are no miracles, there are machines!” Maxine snaps at Tina. By the final moment of this beautifully disturbing show, you’ll be hoping that these tragic, trapped characters find a little mercy somewhere.
Death Tax runs thru Nov 10 at 120 S Main St, FW. $25-$30. 817-923-3012.