The TV audience knows Hamish Linklater as the witty brother from "The New Adventures of Old Christine." Theatergoers know him as a self-challenging actor with a mind so bright you can almost watch it work. In "The Vandal," we find that he is also a promising new playwright who writes characters that actors must love to play and, despite a plot that loses its way by the end, a gift for finding fresh storytelling in familiar setup.
This is a strangers-on-a-park-bench play, but the bench is at a bus stop between a hospital and a graveyard. Noah Robbins is irrepressibly charming as the teen, Deirdre O'Connell wonderfully portrays shrewd damage as the middle-aged woman and Zach Grenier fills in mysterious blanks as owner of a liquor store. The fun is a spooky plot twist, but the depth comes from unpredictably rich characters.
WHAT "The Vandal"
WHERE The Flea Theater, 41 White St., Manhattan
INFO $45-$50; 212-352-3101; theflea.org
BOTTOM LINE Fine actors, promising Linklater