Matthew J. Palm: Play shows it’s easy to la­bel, dis­miss oth­ers.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - Matthew J. Palm mpalm@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com

What: “Blight”

Length: 2:15, in­clud­ing in­ter­mis­sion

Where: Lown­des Shake­speare Cen­ter, 812 E. Rollins St., Or­lando

When: 8 p.m. Fri­day and Satur­day, 3 p.m. Sun­day

Cost: $18, $15 stu­dents, se­niors, mil­i­tary

On­line: ThePRT.com

One of the fas­ci­nat­ing as­pects of the­ater is how it makes you ask your­self ques­tions you have never con­sid­ered: Would I live in a house where a mass mur­derer lived?

That’s the thought writer John Bavoso plants in the au­di­ence’s mind at the start of “Blight,” mak­ing its world premiere in a pro­duc­tion by Or­lando’s Play­wrights’ Round Ta­ble. Bavoso has a lot go­ing on in his con­tem­po­rary drama: A mass shoot­ing at a Planned Par­ent­hood fa­cil­ity, a les­bian cou­ple at a cross­roads about hav­ing chil­dren, neigh­bors on op­po­site ends of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum and above all, the ques­tion of whether a place can ever es­cape its past.

This is all com­pelling stuff, even when PRT’s pro­duc­tion val­ues can’t rise to the strength of the ma­te­rial. And Bavoso holds his story tightly to­gether un­til very near the end, when the plot strands be­come too dif­fuse and he risks fall­ing into melo­drama.

Kate Mur­ray’s di­rec­tion and pac­ing don’t al­ways work with the play’s grow­ing sense of ur­gency, and the low-tech light­ing ham­pers the pro­duc­tion’s abil­ity to cre­ate the feel­ing of dread that hangs over the house at the cen­ter of the story.

It’s a house re­cently pur­chased by Sil­via and Cat, who have left the big city be­hind for small-town life — Cat, some­what un­will­ingly. But it’s also the house where Kristo­pher grew up — and where he planned his at­tack on Planned Par­ent­hood.

Bavoso’s script clev­erly al­ter­nates and over­laps be­tween the present and the past — some­times in a po­etic, ghost-story way — which makes it more puz­zling why PRT chose to make the scenery so lit­eral, sap­ping mo­men­tum with nu­mer­ous scene changes.

The en­gine of the show is the per­fectly pitched per­for­mance by Kisheera Vic­trum as brusque and self­con­fi­dent Sil­via. Vic­trum makes ev­ery facet of Sil­via’s per­son­al­ity ring true. As her meek wife, Cat, Lindsi Jeter shows why Sil­via would have fallen for her, though she doesn’t quite sell the scene late in the game when Cat finds her voice. Jim Cun­diff has a nice turn as a sus­pi­ciously help­ful prop­erty ap­praiser, and Is­abel Ba­bel is con­vinc­ing as Kristo­pher, an awk­ward boy adrift.

Through­out the play, Bavoso does a re­mark­able job of show­ing us rea­sons why Kristo­pher might have car­ried out his heinous act — with­out ex­cus­ing him. And it’s re­fresh­ing to see a man of faith, who stands against abor­tion, writ­ten with dig­nity and re­al­ism (John Hardy plays him with an ap­peal­ing ev­ery­day air).

In “Blight,” the word “mon­ster” gets thrown in ev­ery di­rec­tion. But this play re­minds us that it’s easy to la­bel peo­ple and then dis­miss them as en­e­mies. Look­ing for our com­mon hu­man­ity is much more dif­fi­cult.

PLAY­WRIGHTS’ ROUND TA­BLE

Lindsi Jeter, left, and Kisheera Vic­trum get in over their heads when they buy a home in “Blight,” John Bavoso’s play pre­sented by Or­lando’s Play­wrights’ Round Ta­ble.

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