The somewhat tedious but well-written first hour is a stalemate between two estranged brothers: Kaz, who was blinded in an accident, needs his brother to help him train for a tournament; Sergei, who realized he was as addicted to the game as their dead grandmaster of a father, refuses to ever even look at a chess board again. Once the two set their repetitive arguments aside and actually play, adding color commentary and letting out all the nuances they (and director Joshua Kahan Brody) have been bottling up, the show comes together. If the first half of the play is reading up on intellectual strategy, the second half is all about the execution. It almost holds up, too--but playwright Asa Merritt overcommits to a second climax. The final scenes are confusing, with sexual tension added between Sergei and Kaz's now-slightly-crazed girlfriend Rose, and they undercut what's come before: it's the equivalent of continuing to play after losing one's king.
[Read full review]