031608hellofailure.jpgWhen asked why she wants to learn Japanese, a character in Kristen Kosmas’s play Hello Failure replies, “I want to chop away at the wilderness of my mind.” One suspects the playwright's reasons for developing her own distinctive theatrical language are the same; and, fortunately, her unique voice has a similar "clearing" effect on the audience. By the show’s end, you may find yourself walking out with a slightly less restless mind, though you may not know just what it was that moved you.

There’s not much story here in the conventional sense, but for the most part Hello Failure is consistently engaging, thanks to a witty ensemble and Kosmas’s intriguing writing. Most of the play alternates between two settings: a peculiar support group for the wives of submariners on mission and, stage left, the bathtub where one of the wives, Rebecca, has become too unhinged to make it to the meeting. As the women gather around a conference table to alternately support and undermine each other, Kosmas has fun examining the way people stay isolated while trying to commune. Though mostly amusing, these support group scenes occasionally run out of steam, and even Kosmas’s talent for idiosyncratic dialogue cannot quite compensate for the deemphasized narrative.

But when focus shifts over to Rebecca in her bathroom, Hello Failure exhilarates, in no small part due to Matthew Maher, who is just brilliant as the failed Confederate submarine inventor Horace Hunley. As Rebecca (played by Kosmas, pictured) bonds in the tub with Hunley &mdash seemingly a figment of her imagination &mdash Maher’s hilariously nuanced performance ultimately culminates in a virtuoso tantrum that’s alone worth the price of admission. Hello Failure’s final twist, which happens after the support group bursts into Rebecca’s house for an intervention, is too delicious to spoil here, but it leads to one of the funniest apologies I’ve seen on stage, as the entire cast, in unison, recites a tortured atonement that’s almost incantatory.

Hello Failure continues through March 22nd at P.S. 122 [150 First Avenue]. Tickets cost $18.