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Warehouse, 645 New York Ave. NW

Remaining Performances:

Wednesday, July 13 at 7:45 p.m. Sunday, July 17 at 2:15 p.m. Thursday, July 21 at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m.

They say: “Five of the dictionary’s keywords revel in their superior status — until a dark prophesy warns that their power trip will soon come to an end. Can they find a way to stay on top of the page?”

Adam’s take: Open the dictionary and the words seem so innocuous. Little do we know what trouble they get up to when their human progenitors aren’t looking. These anthropomorphic words, after all, embody the same descriptive characteristics that we have ascribed to them. Place blissful and joyful side by side and there you’ll have a pair of words as happy as a clam. Not so when two antonyms meet. It is then a no-holds-barred brawl to remain the coveted choice of a generation that has so many linguistic choices. All of these words are itching to one day be part of the popular lexicon. It is anything but word play.

Recognizing the high stakes of language, Aaron Fisher has written a witty play that is comical and slightly farcical, testing the limits of what it means to be a word with a preconceived definition.  Rational (Paul Laudiero) can naturally only last so long when cast alongside Insanity (Mark Jennings). Of course, words aren’t always what we expect them to be. Drawing a bath is not always a means of washing oneself and asking for change does not necessarily lead to metal coins in one’s pocket. Perhaps our initial notions of Rational and Insanity are all wrong, too. All of this is set against a backdrop of unrequited love and vengeful murder that threatens to shuffle the words’ pecking order. (Yes, there is apparently an aristocracy among words.) The Oxford English Dictionary is not nearly as benign as we all had hoped!

The play’s premise (using words both as descriptive modifiers and as the principal characters) is certainly its most compelling feature. Fortunately, Patrick Magill‘s strong stage direction and an all-around-solid cast of actors helps animate these words, too. And most of the hundred-plus jokes are nicely delivered to elicit a deserved chuckle. Of course, in a play about puns there are inherently some that reached a bit too far. The plot sometimes strives for added layers of complexity that take away from the glow of the words themselves. (Remember:  Macbeth-like prophecy scenes must have three witches to succeed.) All told, however, the words, while full of various meanings, effectively come to life in ways they never could when merely stuck to the page.

See it if: You have often wondered about the emotional wellbeing of the words you use on a daily basis.

Skip it if: There is a petition out there with your name on it to make the unauthorized use of a pun a misdemeanor under the law.