Playwright Michael Laurence portrays an actor named Michael in "Hamlet in Bed," his visceral and unpredictable if not actually believable, two-character hallucinatory drama. He is a gaunt, tall, febrile man with longish hair and a dual obsession -- to play Hamlet and to find the mother who abandoned him at birth.

He begins his story "a month ago," when he stumbles on the diary of a young actress who played Hamlet's Ophelia 40 years ago, had a baby boy on Michael's exact birthday and had him adopted. Intensely staged by Lisa Peterson on a stark black stage with a dirty mattress, the noirish scenes are mostly monologues -- with lines from Hamlet dropped in.

He stalks the broken former actress, now an unhappy office worker with an alcohol problem and a cat obsession, formidably played by Annette O'Toole with equal parts toughness, desperation and feline litheness. With cruelty we're not sure is unconscious, he casts her to play Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, before telling the truth. At least they don't have sex. At least I think they don't.

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WHERE Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place

INFO $35; 866-811-4111; rattlestick.org