"Fifteen years ago I killed my sister." So goes the famous opening line of Adam Rapp's Nocturne, laying out the central fact of this acclaimed solo play and leading into a characteristically Rappian flourish: "I can change the order of the words. My sister I killed 15 years ago. I, 15 years ago, killed my sister. Sister my killed I years ago 15. I can cite various definitions. To deprive of life: The farmer killed the rabid dog. To put an end to: The umpire killed the tennis match. To mark for omission: He killed the paragraph... To slay. To murder. To assassinate. To dispatch. To execute. You can play with tenses. Will kill. Did kill...." If such writing sends you into poetic raptures, go see Nocturne right now. If such language makes you want to smack the dictionary out of the writer's hand and scream at him to get on with it, meet me at the exit at intermission.
Nocturne does, eventually, get on with it, as our accidental manslaughterer flees his frozen family for New York, where he's brought back to life by literature and, eventually, love. Nocturne is performed by Seattle actor Craig Doescher, an accomplished, appealing, wonderfully idiosyncratic performer who does what he can with the task at hand. But thanks to Rapp's relentless thesaurian pirouettes—the linguistic equivalent of treading water, prettily—his efforts are too often in vain. Saddled with a script so dense and flowery it makes Tennessee Williams look like a minimalist, Doescher is a winning actor in a no-win situation.