The first scene of Halley Feiffer’s new drama is a bear trap. It seizes one’s attention and won’t let go. Feiffer, who stars as Cat, is having drinks and hors d’oeuvres with Guy, a restaurateur whose wife she has profiled for The New Yorker. He’s explaining to her his design of the Japanese restaurant they are in; as performed by Hamish Linklater, he is arrogant, charming, playful, insulting, and possibly dangerous. When he says to her, “I’m a serial killer,” and quickly follows it up with “I’m joking,” it’s not completely reassuring.
The actor-playwright Hamish Linklater, born in Great Barrington, an upscale rural community of the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, uses the bucolic area as the setting for The Whirligig, his new play. It’s a region with plenty of past literary associations. Edith Wharton has a crucial scene in Ethan Frome take place in Lenox, where she lived; Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote Tanglewood Tales while dwelling in the same town; and Herman Melville turned out Moby-Dick at his home in Pittsfield, the county seat. Much more recently, Lucy Thurber set her Hilltown Plays in the nearby area.