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"A riveting edge-of-the-seat affair shot through with sex, violence and narrative thrills.  Hiding Behind Comets will show up again somewhere soon and it will sell a lot of tickets."

Chris Jones, Variety (Cincinnati Playhouse production)

“A dark, gritty story with its full measure of sex, violence, profanity and general nastiness.”

New York Times

 “Brian Dykstra's play is a knockout psychological thriller with simmering suspense at every turn. There is nary a wasted moment in the script of twists and revelations which raises multiple emotionally charged moral issues. Dykstra's richly drawn characters have complicated connections to each other (including an ambiguous sexual bond between the twins themselves). This is an adult play, not for the feint-of-heart.”

NYTheatre.com (Nicu's Spoon production)

"Hands down ONE OF THE FINEST NEW PLAYS OF THE SEASON, this edgy suspense drama is both a superb ghost story and a joltingly subversive study of human politics. GO SEE IT…I love this play."

Martin Denton, NYTheatre.com Critics Pick (29th Street Rep production)


Although twin brother and sister, Troy and Honey, share an unusually strong bond, they seem as different as night and day. One late summer evening, a stranger wanders into their family-owned bar. When he starts asking personal questions, it soon becomes clear that his visit to this small-town dive has not been purely coincidental. The extent of his journey, it’s underlying motivation and the past horrors that have directed it provide a roller coaster of surprises that keep audiences on the edge of their seat until the plays final moments. click the photo at right to view more from the Cincinnati in the Playhouse production.

Character Breakdown

2 Men, 2 Women



World Premiere

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (Cincinnati, Ohio) Michael Haney, Director

New York Premiere

29th Street Rep, David Mogentale, Director


Nicu's Spoon Theatre (NYC), John Trevellini, director
Zeitgeist Stage Company (Boston, MA), David J Miller, Director
Birmingham Theatre Festival (Birmingham, Alabama), Stephen French, Director

Workshop Production

World Premiere Theatre (Eureka, California) Desmond Mosley, Director


Arizona Theatre Company (Tucson, AZ)
Access Theater (NYC)
Blue Heron, Subjective Theater Company (NYC)



Hiding Behind Comets - Zeitgeist production“Tense barroom thriller… Sexually charged… Fiery… Mesmerizing… Riveting”

Marilyn Stasio, Variety

"SWEATY-PALMED suspense…a lean, predatory production... DON'T MISS THIS LITTLE SYMPHONY OF SAVAGERY "

New York Sun

A side of America darker than baseball, apple pie, and Satanic manipulation is on view in Hiding Behind Comets!"

Carolyn Clay, Boston Phoenix

 "The play has stayed with me longer than most works ... Dykstra knows how to deliver jolts in both plot and theme…Dykstra is a writer to watch."

Ed Siegel, The Boston Globe

"To ticket-buyers who reveled in Killer Joe as well as in Letts' Bug, Dykstra's SPEEDING-ON-SHEER-NERVE melodrama ought to satisfy any craving for new shocks. The piece incorporates the kind of TWISTED TWISTS that had patrons in my row GASPING as the theatrical pedal was pressed to the metal. . . As Cole, Dan Moran could SCARE THE PANTS OFF AL CAPONE."

David Finkle, Theatermania.com

"A truly HARROWING and THOUGHT-PROVOKING play, the kind that GETS UNDER YOUR SKIN and continues to pester your soul for days after the house lights come up. Cases are made, issues are debated, and as in true life, there is no right answer. That, perhaps, is the most terrifying aspect of all."


"A TENSE PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER… Dykstra is a writer with a lot on his mind...If you want a show about apple-pie American siblings, better head uptown and buy a ticket for Little Women."

Curtain Up

" Dykstra 's CRACKLING variation on 'So, This Guy Walks Into a Bar...'


"a masterly evening of suspense... Dykstra achieves commanding insights into the characters....It is Dykstra's talent for writing dialogue-now slicing, now vulgar, now sardonic-that provides exciting sparring...There are fascinating explorations, notably the strange symbiotic emotional and physical connections that the twins have for one another...There are also substantive contemplations on larger themes: the manipulation of minds through the perversion of faith, the twisted rationale that extended guilt can cause and the unsettling effects on children when they are deprived of truth."

Cincinnati Post

“a roller coaster of events that keep patrons on the edge of their seats until the very end.”

The News Record

The Cincinnati Enquirer
Best of 2003: Theater

By Jackie Demaline

But others have been edgy works that made audiences — and apparently the Rosenthals — squirm. For instance, Angus MacLachaln's The Dead Eye Boy (2000) told a tale of domestic violence and child murder; this season's new play selection, Hiding Behind Comets by Brian Dykstra (March 20-April 18, 2004), led to the Rosenthals' decision to stop funding the prize.

"Because of a lack of enthusiasm for this year's selection, we have chose to discontinue the prize," the Rosenthals said in a prepared statement. Indicating a desire to avoid "awkward situations" in the future, they added, "We have decided to discontinue the Rosenthal New Play Prize and instead work to find other vehicles in which we can continue our support of the Playhouse."

Stern is undaunted, saying the Playhouse will continue to stage new works.

"If American regional theater doesn't develop new materials, it really won't happen," he says. "Regional theater is the touchstone of new theater development."

 More press

About: Hiding Behind Comets

No hiding the pain
'Hiding Behind Comets' makes its world premiere at Playhouse

by Tabari McCoy, CinWeekly

“Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park associate artistic director Michael Evan Haney says to consider yourself warned if you plan on attending a performance of Hiding Behind Comets:
" Be prepared to hold onto your hats."

“Running through Sunday, April 18, Hiding Behind Comets is the name of actor-turned-playwright Brian Dykstra's new play, which made its world premiere at the Playhouse earlier this month. A drama centering around the interaction of four characters in the middle of nowhere, Comets is not what one could consider a "standard" production by any means.”


Playhouse in the Park introduces you to survivors of the Jonestown Massacre

“…Hiding Behind Comets is a well-constructed, tightly wound drama with a plausible but edgy twists to keep the audience completely fixed on the unfolding story until the very last moments of the performance. For Cincinnati's more sophisticated arts crowd, it will be an outstanding hit.”

Kendra Leonard, AroundCinci.com

Rough-hewn 'Comets' invades Playhouse

“…The writer of "Hiding Behind Comets," a new play having its premiere tonight at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, doesn't hide behind heavenly lights or much of anything --
especially controversy.”

Jerry Stein, Cincinnati Post

The Elements of Great Theater
Cincinnati Playhouse makes a splash
with its commitment to cutting-edge plays

Biggest jaw-dropper - The surprise announcement in mid-September that arts patrons Lois and Richard Rosenthal were ending their long-time association with the new play prize at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. What would have been the 16th winner, Hiding Behind Comets by Brian Dykstra, was clearly a bone of contention. We'll find out why when it has its world premiere at Playhouse in March.

Rick Pender, City Beat (Cincinnati)

Full Reviews

Hiding Behind Comets

A 29th Street Rep and Darren Lee Cole
presentation of a play in two acts by Brian Dykstra.
Directed by David Mogentale.

Erin - Amber Gallery
Troy - Robert Mollohan
Honey - Moira MacDonald
Cole - Dan Moran


The 29th Street Rep is a ballsy company that offers auds a chance to walk on the wild side. Its plays steam with cheap sex, dirty dialogue and blunt-force violence; it works in an edgy ensemble style that hangs tough and looks dangerous. And according to the kick-ass T-shirts on sale in the lobby, it takes great pride in being a place "where brutal theater lives." Brian Dykstra's tense barroom thriller fits the company bill with its sexually charged atmosphere and morbid B-movie plot about a mysterious stranger who walks into a barroom with a bizarre story and a violent agenda.

So this Guy Walks Into A Bar and ... No, you haven't heard this one before. Neither has Troy (Robert Mollohan), the young bartender waiting for his last customer to leave so he and his twin sister, Honey (Moira MacDonald), can call it a night at their father's tavern and cruise their Northern California hick town for livelier entertainment.

Troy's girlfriend, the pretty, vacant blonde Erin (Amber Gallery), contributes to the tension of this waiting game by humping the vintage jukebox (well stocked by Tim Cramer) in sexual anticipation.

Douglas Cox's murky lighting and the junkyard quality of Mark Symczak's barroom decor are proper eye irritants for this tired roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. Only the young people look out of place, with their bottled-up energy and defiantly punk clothes. Troy is good-natured about pulling the night shift, but Honey is a bundle of nerves, the loose cannon in the crowd. In MacDonald's fiery perf , Honey is such a hellion, she might torch the place out of sheer boredom.

Dykstra intensifies the hormonal energy bouncing off the walls by giving Honey an unhealthy sexual itch for her twin and a rich vocabulary to vent her frustration. (Honey's filthy mouth obviously contributed to the overall "content, graphic language and sexuality" that caused the play to lose its funding when it was first produced at the Cincinnati Playhouse.)

Although Troy remains entirely oblivious to the situation, it seems Honey has been pimping her friends to her brother. "Listen, bitch," she snarls at him. "I'm trying to get the both of you laid, because that's all you really care about tonight, anyway." Indeed, Honey is so attuned to Troy's body chemistry that she has a spontaneous orgasm at the bar while he's boffing Erin in the storeroom.

The dynamic shifts dramatically once the creepy customer nursing his drink at a back table lets it be known that he has a personal interest in the twins. To make a long story short (and Dykstra does tend to stretch it out), the mysterious Cole has reason to believe they may be his own offspring -- either that, or the tainted progeny of Jim Jones, the cult preacher who infamously orchestrated the deaths of more than 900 people at Jonestown in 1978.

It turns out that Cole was at Jonestown and, in a mesmerizing perf by Dan Moran, he stuns his listeners with a horrific account of his role as one of Jones' trusted henchmen. Taking it beyond the riveting storytelling, Moran offers a fierce accounting of Cole's everlasting season in hell.

Pinning the twins to the wall with his twisted logic and ferocious rage, he forces them to consider the genetic roots of evil and puts them to sadistic tests to determine their paternity. It's a dangerous performance, but Dykstra keeps the character just this side of crazy, and Moran never jumps the boundary.

Even in David Mogentale's taut production (an impressive helming debut from this company actor), the show is by no means a slam-dunk. The title is too abstract for such visceral material, and the sadistic trials devised by Cole could be sharper and more definitive. But in a slightly trimmer version -- and without the intermission -- this nasty thing could offend quite a few people.

Set, Mark Symczak; lighting, Douglas Cox; sound, Tim Cramer; graphics, Orianne Cosentino; fight coordinator, J. David Brimmer; production stage manager, Walter Guzman. Opened Feb. 17, 2005 . Reviewed Feb. 13. Running time: 1 HOUR, 45 MIN.

Dan Moran may or may not be Moira MacDonald's father in Brian Dykstra's Hiding Behind Comets, directed by David Mogentale at the 29th Street Rep.

Date in print: Thurs., Feb. 17, 2005 , Gotham


Hiding Behind Comets

A Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park presentation of a play in two acts by Brian Dykstra .
Directed by Michael Evan Haney.
Troy - Christian Conn
Honey - Jacqueline Van Biene
Erin - Erica Schroeder
Cole - Dan Moran

For the past 15 years or so, the Rosenthal family has sponsored a new-play award in Cincy that has sent a bevy of fine scripts — from "The Dead-Eyed Boy" to "Coyote on the Fence" — to Off Broadway and the regional circuit. But the Rosenthals pulled their funding after reading this new play, an intensely sexual preem that depicts the strange connections between twentysomething twins and a survivor of the Jonestown massacre who may or may not be their father.

Granted, this is no family treat. But there' s no territory exposed here that Tracy Letts or Canadian bad-boy Brad Fraser didn't already plow in the 1990s — in Cincinnati, at that. "Hiding Behind Comets" has some contrivances, and is far from subtle, especially in Michael Evan Haney's flashy production. But it's a riveting, edge-of-the-seat affair shot through with sex, violence, narrative thrills and a smart, engaging premise.

Set entirely in a bar in a California nowheresville town, the four-hander introduces Troy (Christian Conn) and Honey (Jacqueline Van Biene), fraternal twins who tend a family-owned tavern.

A menacing middle-aged stranger named Cole (Dan Moran) wanders into the bar and, after a little banter with Honey, figures out the twins' unusual relationship: Honey gets her kicks by enticing her friends to sleep with her brother. While Troy gets it on in the storeroom downstairs, Honey has a spontaneous orgasm in front of Cole. He goes on to reveal that he was in Jonestown for the infamous grape Kool-Aid massacre.

As the night drags on, Cole adds that he knew the twins' mother. He got her out of Jonestown before the final nastiness. Now Cole (played with intentional semi-psychotic ambivalence by Dan Moran) has come to find out if the twins are his own progeny or that of loopy cult leader Jim Jones. If they belong to Jones, he intends to kill them, lest they turn out to be nuts themselves. If they belong to him, he plans to disappear.

Thanks in no small measure to Dysktra's ability to parse the plot twists deftly, it's more convincing than it sounds. It's also intriguing, with underpinnings that explore cult behavior and the idea of kids inheriting the sins and inclinations of their parents.

Excursions into Jonestown flashbacks come just as the play threatens to dissolve into barroom standard issue. The language walks a fine line between theatrical stylization and naturalism.

There are daring, on-the-edge performances to enjoy, especially the terrific Biene and Conn as the twins whose interlaced worlds get thoroughly rocked.

Featuring loud f/x, a tricks-laden set from Kevin Rigdon and intensely theatrical lighting from David Lander ("I Am My Own Wife"), Haney's production sometimes overplays its hand. But this isn't the show to shy away from the dark games of theater. "Hiding Behind Comets" will show up again somewhere soon, and it will sell a lot of tickets.

Sets, Kevin Rigdon; costumes, Gordon DeVinney; lighting, David Lander; sound, Chuck Hatcher; production stage manager, Suann Pollock. Artistic director, Ed Stern. Opened March 25, 2004 . Reviewed April 15. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.

Chris Jones, Variety (Cincinnati Playhouse production)

New York Sun

29th Street Rep has staked out their territory, marked it, and now does a a nice job of defending it.  Preferring adrenalized action-drama, the bloodier , the better, the company's tiny space had hosted a number of ugly bust-ups and brutal confessions. With Brian Dykstra 's "Hiding Behind Comets," the bring sweaty-palmed suspense back the the stage.  In a lean, predatory production, the Rep succeeds in a very macho counterprogramming ploy for a month burdened with Valentine's Day.

Mr. Dykstra spins a tight web of suspense out of a narrow premise.  On a lonely night near closing time,  a stranger walks into a bar.  The 22-year old twins Honey (husky-voiced Moira MacDonald) and Troy (Robert Mollohan) are fighting about when to close up, bickering over Honey's friend Erin (Amber Gallery), and finishing each other's sentences.  Observing them, the stranger Cole (Dan Moran) coaxes new heights of sexual fran kness out of Honey and depths of anger out of Tory, but he does it all in the pursuit of a dangerous game of this own.

Much of the play's pleasure lies in its startling twists and angry little jabs of revelation, so more plot would ruin its rush.  First-time director David Mogentale has a killer instinct with the material--he plumbs his own experience as an accomplished portrayer of murderers.  Keeping his cast lethally primed for action at all times, he managers to milk the last drop out of dreadful anticipation out of Dykstra 's script. It helps that his company has such ease portraying physical menace.  Mr. Moran has a weird blankness about him that means everything he does comes as a surprise, while the twins entwine so tightly it's hard to sort them out, one from the other. Don't miss this little symphony of savagery, but don't eat immediately before it, either.

"To ticket-buyers who reveled in Killer Joe as well as in Letts' Bug, Dykstra 's SPEEDING-ON-SHEER-NERVE melodrama ought to satisfy any craving for new shocks...the kind of TWISTED TWISTS that had patrons in my row GASPING as the theatrical pedal was pressed to the metalŠAs Cole, Dan Moran could SCARE THE PANTS OFF AL CAPONE."

David Finkle, Theatermania.com

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