We never learn, for instance, why Hinckley latched on to Jodie Foster and not Justine Bateman or Kristy McNichol. Or why, as he alludes, he hates his father and seems to have no friends. "I understand Taxi Driver and it understands me," Hinckley says by way of explaining his obsession with the actress. "It mirrored the way I was feeling and it was sexy and it understood the way I am." That's compelling writing, but it doesn't really define or even elucidate Hinckley's passion. Furthermore, for a play about a man obsessed with a woman, I Love You Forever contains long stretches in which the idea of Foster dissipates.

Also absent is any notion that Meltzer, who also directs, made the right decisions about using his actor, given the limitations of the Tobacco Road space. Financial considerations aside the only justification for staging a play on an empty set is if you have an actor strong enough to take the audience to places in their own imaginations where props aren't necessary. Here, however, the bare-stage approach leaves Meltzer's script and Fabregat to fend for themselves, and in this case neither is up to the task.

Giving Hinckley something to do that would reveal how his obsession manifests itself might be a way to engage us more effectively. Fabregat is an appealing guy, but he doesn't bring much to the portrait of Hinckley. For example, there's no difference between the way he talks about seeing Taxi Driver and the way he describes the ride, under guard, from the scene of the shooting. It's not clear whether we're supposed to feel sympathy for him or to regard him with horror -- or some combination of both -- which is partially the playwright's fault. But when Fabregat stumbled over words, I couldn't tell whether he was doing it to convey the character's unease or because he'd simply flubbed a line.

In real life Hinckley was acquitted on grounds of insanity. On stage at Tobacco Road, he's not entirely competent either. Like the real Hinckley, I Love You Forever misses its mark.

I Love You Forever.
Written and directed by Stuart Meltzer. Starring Erik Fabregat. Through September 30. Trap Door Theatre at Tobacco Road, 626 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-512-5051.

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