Yankee Tavern

Steven Dietz (Becky’s New Car) has a long history at ACT: This skillfully executed new suspense-comedy hybrid is his 10th play for the company, and he directs it, too. The question here isn’t whether it’s “too soon” to be treating 9/11 for laughs (in Act I, at least), but why Dietz has divided the play so abruptly. Clearly, he’s not out to write a two-hour episode of Cheers. In a bar in lower Manhattan not long after 9/11, the house drunk (comic bonanza Charles Leggett) harangues the owner (boyish Shawn Telford) with ridiculous conspiracies about that event. Ray’s posturing is uproarious, as he boxes the air, fancies himself “catnip in a cardigan for student radicals,” and holds his liquor bottle like a beacon of truth. The arrival of a laconic new patron (eerily still R. Hamilton Wright) sends the play in a different direction during Act II. He raises doubts about the bar owner, whose fiancée (Jennifer Lee Taylor) is soon contaminated by the paranoia. But that may be preferable to the pit of grief in Dietz’s quirky, affable, and ultimately mordant play. MARGARET FRIEDMAN

Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: July 30. Continues through Aug. 29, 2010

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