Carol Triffle—the lady half of Imago—created Hit Me in the Stomach, a dreamlike assemblage of loopy characters and conversational non sequiturs garnered from observations she made in a casino.
A fully functional automatic garage door combined with fake grass and aluminum siding creates the prototypical suburban scenario: folks kicking it in their driveway. Jackie (Danielle Vermette) lives with Pablo 1 (Ian Karmel), a road worker who arrives home at the play's outset. The couple sits in little armchairs as Jackie, small and anxious, drones on about her desire to open a "topless coffee shop." Pablo 1, massive and expressionless, interjects periodically with comments that make sense only part of the time. Two random drunk dudes (Justin Ouellette and Kyle Delamarter) wander around on the periphery, doing something mysterious in the creepily lit house, connected to the garage.
For a while, this heightened stylistic blandness entertains profoundly. Vermette has created a fully realized character in Jackie, her perpetual, strained half-grin and poor posture suggesting a deep reserve of burning angst. Her initial rambling monologues are surreal, poignant, and hilarious.
Then Pablo 2 shows up, played by a goofier-than-usual John Berendzen. He hangs out in the garage, too, bugging his eyes out cartoonishly, and making odd, disjointed passes at Jackie. It's implied that he and Pablo 1 are brothers, but it doesn't seem to matter much; they could both be mannequins for all they actually connect with each other onstage. Berendzen and Karmel are manifestations of pure weirdness, but without a trace of humanity to make their existence seem worthwhile. Together, they drown the much more interesting Jackie out, engaging in stupid slap-fights and stuffing their faces with microwave pizza pockets. The show shifts its focus to them, and things get boring in a hurry.
Hit Me in the Stomach is an experiment in surreal ambience and stylistically awkward interaction. It's not a complete play, but a series of disconnected moments—all of which work in the production's first half; none of which work in the second half.