"Ice Game" is a one-act play about an hour in length. It brings together on stage five characters modeled after faces from the 22-card Tarot deck. They are joined by a sixth actor, Pierrot, that indefatigible French equivalent of Everyman that playwrights love to use as a foil for figures that are concepts rather than living, breathing, motivated characters.

So that's six parts. And the performers are playing what is called a "game." Beyond that, the action eludes being summarized.

Based on last night's debut performance at the Market 5 Gallery in the Eastern Market, a better description of the script would be a puzzle; and a frustratingly obscure one at that.

Apparently what playwright Valerie Harris has in mind is an abstract intellectual drama of the sort that Beckett has written with such eloquence. But the basic mechanics of the framework on which such intellectual baggage is hung must be fairly straightforward to make such a play work. Otherwise, the viewer needs footnotes.

In place of that, there were several notices posted around the gallery that informed the viewer about the theme: "The individual who says 'no' to his role and as a result is faced with emotional and societal constraints." Well, so be it, but there are hundreds of other works that have delivered this message more forcefully.

Among the six cast members the standouts were Richard McNair as Pierrot and Jan Behman as the licentious empress.

The play will continue Thursday through Sundays at 8 p.m. until Sept. 30.