The very title of George F. Walker's six-play cycle Suburban Motel doesn't bode well for its characters. The Canadian playwright isn't well-known in the United States, one reason Walking Fish Theatre wanted to bring the entire cycle to Philadelphia between this season and next, starting with The End of Civilization and Featuring Loretta.
But based on experience — Sam Shepard's Fool for Love, Tracy Letts' Bug — you don't have to know much about Walker to know that if a play occurs in a motel, even a Canadian one, you won't be watching happy families visit Niagara Falls.
Each one-act stands on its own, though a few (not these two) have overlapping characters. But even when the characters are new, they're not. They're exactly whom you'd expect to meet in a nondescript motel room onstage: night crawlers, people on the verge of falling apart or already down in it. The End of Civilization uses film noir flourishes (a Walker specialty) such as murders, hookers, crooked cops, and disorienting shifts in time. Featuring Loretta takes a comic approach, with the room hosting amateur pornographers and the Russian emigre daughter of an ex-KGB agent.