Wan West

No blood or coyote howls in Mosaic Theatre's version of a Sam Shepard standard

While the Mosaic production is marked by clarity and competence, it completely misses those live-wire underpinnings. The comedy is carefully wrought, but the play's anarchic menace is missing. The four-actor cast is thoroughly competent, but there's little chemistry. Terrell Hardcastle plays Austin as an intelligent, somewhat repressed professional trying to cope with an outlandish situation. It's a solid enough performance but a recycled one. Hardcastle has been doing essentially the same character in the same way in a string of area productions. Michael St. Pierre plays Lee, one of a long line of Shepard's dangerous charismatic drifters, more as a teddy bear than a predator, offering little threat or fire. Linda Bernhard, normally so reliable, seems lost here, bringing little impact to the brief role of the returning mother. As Saul the Hollywood producer, David Vargo fares best, aided by the fact that Shepard flips the usual stereotypes, making the Hollywood producer the most normal character in the bunch.

St. Pierre and Hardcastle: So what happened to the anarchic menace?
St. Pierre and Hardcastle: So what happened to the anarchic menace?

Details

Presented through October 5 by the Mosaic Theatre Company. Call 954-577-8243.
American Heritage Fine Arts Center, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Bldg. 3000, Plantation

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Most of the problems here must be laid to Richard Jay Simon's naturalistic staging, which offers meticulous detail where manic gonzo energy is required. When Lee destroys the house in his search for a pen or pencil to write with, his search feels carefully staged, not crazed. The same applies to the play's long monologues, extended word riffs that come across as constructed, not booze-fueled improvisations. David Sherman's kitchen set seems decidedly non-L.A., with its tacky Southwestern/Santa Fe décor, but at least the use of Native American pottery and artifacts suggests some mythic elements. The production might have been better off without the languid music score, mostly Allman Brothers and Hank Jr. at their drowsiest. But the soundtrack says it all. Shepard refers to two external forces in his L.A. nighttime setting, the yin and yang of his tale: the lulling normalcy of crickets and the enticing spooky menace of prowling coyotes. This Mosaic show has lots of crickets but no coyotes. It whirs and chirps, but there are no howls echoing through them thar L.A. hills.

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