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Adam reviews 'Spooky Stories in the Stacks' and 'The Hatchet Man' 

With a chill now in the air, fall has officially arrived, putting me in just the right mood for "Spooky Stories in the Stacks" at the Central Library. Starting in the Rundel Memorial Building, our audience was brought downstairs to take our seats in the secluded stacks, a section of the library the public doesn't often get a chance to see. There, city historians regaled us with tales of chilling stories from Rochester's past, including the infamous Fox Sisters, the mysterious death of Laura Young, and the grisly fate of poor, inept murderer Marion Ira Stout. I admit that, based on the program description, I was hoping for a walking tour of the behind-the-scenes areas of the library while hearing these stories, but it was still plenty of good creepy fun to hear about the seamier side of Rochester lore.

For my final show at the Fringe, I headed over to MuCCC for the last performance of "The Hatchet Man," a one-act from local playwright Mark Jabaut. Aiming for something in the vein of "American Psycho," the play is set at an anonymous corporation, where a lowly salesman named Warren Peabody (Jeff Miller) has been struggling to perform his duties. As the play opens, he receives a visit from Mr. Grace (Morey Frazzi), a "hatchet man" brought in by the company's CEO to cut the business's fat and make massive layoffs. But as the two men talk, it becomes clear that Mr. Grace has something else in mind entirely.

Revealing to Peabody that the CEO's plan is to eventually shutter the company entirely, he proposes that the solution is to murder their boss and save both their jobs in the process. Reluctant at first, Peabody eventually agrees. But when he takes more of a liking to the process than expected, the tables start to turn in some surprising ways.

It's easy to see what "The Hatchet Man" is going for: a satire that makes the cutthroat nature of America's business world horrifyingly literal. But satire thrives when it has a solid narrative off which to build. Here, the character's motivations and actions change to support their satirical function, but aren't logical from an actual story sense, leaving things a bit nebulous and ultimately dulling the point it's trying to make. "The Hatchet Man" is entertaining, and excellent performances from Miller and Frazzi go a long way in giving the material life, but the show can't help feeling like a rough draft for something much sharper.

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