Just because a play is based on a comic-book character doesn’t give it an excuse to be amateurish. The Shadow’s program promises “thrills and chills” and warns that the production is “not for the faint of heart or children,” but I’d say the opposite is true: Kids would be the only ones who’d delight at the few pops of a cap gun, and no one but the faint of heart will discern any true blackness in this pallid “theater noir.” The menacing title character (director B. Stanley), shrouded in a large-brimmed hat and black cape, is actually a minor presence in the play after the first few minutes, leaving those not familiar with the story—perhaps you passed on the Alec Baldwin movie—wondering what in the hell the Shadow actually knows. It’s certainly intriguing when he stops Harry Vincent (Lou Zammichieli) from jumping off a bridge (though the ensuing exchange—”Why did you try suicide?” “Melancholy!”—should be a hint of cringeworthy moments to come) and offers Harry a Satan-inspired eternal-happiness deal. But the play quickly becomes weighted with exposition about the crux of the story, a computer virus that skips screwing with one’s e-mail to instead mess directly with one’s mind, persuading those who are exposed to do any number of evil things (“fly planes into buildings” is one quick but sickening example given). The principal players, about whom it’s easier to generalize than to figure out their specific motives—Margo Lane (Martha Mendenhall), good; Black Tiger (Daniel C. Awkward), bad—seem to be having a good time with the mostly crisp, rat-a-tat dialogue, though a few of them get tripped up by the mouthfuls of explanation that are too often required of them. The staging in this black-box theater is minimal, relying on one or two chairlike squares to simulate locations such as a car or hotel room, and peripheral characters such as a bellboy or desk clerk are merely outstretched hands from backstage—touches that are creative and even add a touch of humor, but ultimately give The Shadow the feel of a no-budget high school production. —Tricia Olszewski