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Dying Gaul: Drama You Can Download

What do Buddha, Goethe and 2200 year-old Hellenistic art have in common? Apart from their (obvious) connection to Kevin Bacon in six steps or less, they each play into the development of Craig Lucas' The Dying Gaul (through April 29 at the Boston Center for the Arts). A modern Faustian fable, The Dying Gaul follows a struggling writer, Robert (John P. Arnold), as he attempts to express his grief over his lover's death in the form of a screenplay. Jeffery (Will Lyman) is a closeted Hollywood producer who offers Robert one million dollars for the script-if he will rewrite the main characters as straight. His wife Elaine (Melinda Lopez) constantly teeters on the brink of destruction as she and her laptop computer explore the seduction of the new Internet world opening before her.

Lucas' text, though rife with wit and biting social observation, is hampered by its tendency to break into long sections of on-line chat. The problems of this inherently artificial form of communication are made even worse by clichd lines about safe sex, homophobia and unconditional love; with all of this linguistic burden to carry, it's no surprise that the script occasionally loses track of its plot, awkwardly stumbling over a few After School Special messages. Thankfully, though, director Eric Engel (Director of Memorial Hall/Sanders Theatre) still manages to blend Lucas' words into an (almost) seamless narrative journey to the dark side of greed, jealousy and betrayal. A combination of smooth technical savvy, crisp staging and two wonderfully nuanced performances (Lyman and Lopez) creates a freeway of sinful compromise where innocence is only a speed bump. Crass, powerful, aggressive Jeffrey is a perfect match for Elaine's subtle intelligence, creativity and inner isolation. Whenever the struggling couple appear on stage-separated or together-the audience can't help but fantasize about the wonderful story Lucas could have told about them.

The Dying Gaul, however, is about Robert. Though Arnold turns in a valiant effort, he is nevertheless unable to salvage Robert from the doom of being by far the most boring character of the three. He reads Nietzsche, spouts a lot of Eastern philosophy and spends most of his time pining over his dead lover and contemplating suicide. He's the annoying parts of Hamlet without the really cool sword fight at the end. Fortunately, he seems to find himself by the second act; as he tries to come to terms with his loss, Robert discovers disturbing facets of his personality which had been buried in a shroud of mourning.

Once we cut through all of the sex and death and money and sex and loneliness and cyber-eroticism and lies and sex, we are left with a telling examination of circles of power. While at first it seems clear which characters hold influence over the others, the dynamic of control continually shifts throughout the play (which should come as little surprise-the play is set in 1995 Los Angeles). As the lies which preserve both our society and our sanity are recklessly ripped away, we are far we might be willing to go to get it back.

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further exploitative programming, but the "Multi-Millionaire" event proves that even careful background checks can miss something, and in the high-stress situations of "Survivor" and "Big Brother," even a small oversight in the psychological or physical tests can explode into a serious issue.

The question that remains as "Survivor" is set to air is how far American network executives will go to win the ratings race. All around the world, even more shocking game shows exist. In England, game shows like "Don't Forget Your Toothbrush" involve people performing sometimes lewd and embarrassing acts for a surprisingly small amount of money. This is mild compared to some of the Japanese and Australian game shows. Are American TV executives so concerned about ratings that they are willing to put anything on television, regardless of its moral implications? From the latest two imports from Europe, that certainly seems to be the case.

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