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In 'Dead Guy,' reality gets unreal. Would you vote to kill?

An overdose of cleverness

Flashpoint Theatre's

The Dead Guy

asks if you would vote - on television,

American Idol

-style - to kill someone. It's a simple yet outlandish premise, right?

The Dead Guy

's title is also the name of a fictional reality-TV show, on which we watch a hapless victim-to-be for seven ratings-filled days - from the moment he signs a contract with network hack Gina, promising to trade his life for $1 million, to his moment of truth, in front of a live studio audience (you).

So would you do it? Would I?

Of course not.

Except, I did watch every episode of

Celebrity Rehab

, even the one where a sodden Jeff Conaway had seizures on camera, which only made me want more. So then again, maybe I would. And judging by the recent announcement that


has been renewed for a second season, maybe you would, too.

Eric Coble's script works its doomed horse so hard it loses much of the tension crucial to its premise, and director Michael Osinski is lucky to have a cast that overcomes those shortcomings. Still, that premise remains intriguing, even if we've already seen it in several other guises (



The Running Man


The Truman Show


Nathan Holt's engaging everydude, Eldon, slouching around the stage in an Aerosmith T-shirt and raggedy cutoffs, is mostly responsible for keeping us invested in his character's inevitable demise, though he is ably assisted by Allison Heishman as his ex-girlfriend, Christy, and Jess Conda as his brassy mom, Roberta.

However, Mathilda McCommon's ambition-fueled

Dead Guy

creator/host Gina also suffers from the same lack of mystery as the script.

Though reality television thrives on one-dimensionality, the same principle does not follow for live theater, and McCommon's efforts to maintain that single dimension quickly become grating.

Mounted on each side of the stage are television monitors intermittently broadcasting content-related commercials (when an episode of

The Dead Guy

features Eldon buying pickup trucks for his family, a commercial for "The Eliminator," a new pickup truck, appears). We also see that reality-TV staple, the "confessional," in which characters - or are they people? - vent privately to the audience about whatever has just transpired in the plot - um, in their lives. The lines between reality and "reality" get blurry, and Coble inserts cleverness galore, but perhaps too much for the show's own good.

Ultimately, Eldon's denouement is disappointing, but I won't give up the spoiler. Tune in and cast your own vote on the matter.

The Dead Guy

Through May 31 at Second Stage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St. Tickets: $12 to $18. Information: 215-563-4330 or