Amaranthine Night begins with an ominous scene. An amnesiac, Joe (James Luster), walks into a bar. Everyone there seems to know Joe already, and the diabolical barkeep, Charlie (Tyne Zewadski Clifton), keeps cracking cold Yuenglings for him. For reasons unknown to the audience, Charlie and everyone else in the bar seem intent on preventing Joe from regaining his memory.
In its show Double Feature, Action/Adventure Theatre is staging two new plays, Amaranthine Night and Ghost Town. Both of the eerie one-acts share a single set: a modest bar with a neon beer sign. Off to the side of the stage, musician Robert Randall plays moody tunes throughout both plays.
In Amaranthine Night, a coked-up realtor named John (Nathan Ayling) delivers the play's wittiest lines. Meanwhile, John's girlfriend, Dierde (Myia Johnson), is the sole character to actually try to help Joe remember why he's doomed to repeat his mistakes. But most of the dialogue feels aimless: Questions are answered with questions, and most of what is said doesn't do anything to advance the plot.
The second play has a similar fate. Ghost Town attempts to retell Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" with some David Lynch- inspired backwoodsy weirdness. This time, the bar is in rural Washington—the beer of choice is Olympia and cig-smoking tough girl Caroline (Johnson) mentions a jaunt to Seattle.
Things get weirder and more intriguing when the bartender's cousin, Shiloh (Brian Kuwabara), staggers in with a limp and a bite taken out of him. But even though he's clearly a member of the local backwoods cult, he conceals his wound from everyone for no obvious reason. It's another bleeding hole in a murky plot that goes nowhere—slowly.
The cast members do their best with the material and give spirited performances. But by the time both hour-long tales reach their end, the plots have lost too much momentum for their resolution to feel satisfying.
SEE IT: Double Feature plays at Action/Adventure Theatre, 1050 SE Clinton Street, actionadventure.org. 8:00 pm Thursday-Sunday, through June 4. $10-$18.