Monday, December 29, 2014

A Particle of Dread (Oedipus Variations)

Photo: Matthew Murphy
Sam Shepard came to prominence chronicling the battered and bruised families of the American West, so it should come as no surprise that he would set his sights on the most dysfunctional family in the history of theatre. His latest play, A Particle of Dread, is, as its subtitle suggests, a duel reimaging of Sophocles' trilogy, transported to two of Shepard's favorite locales: Ireland (by way of Thebes) and the contemporary Southwest. The former is a fairly straightforward retelling of Oedipus the King, albeit with strong brogues; the latter, a bloody true crime mini-epic that could be the love child of Breaking Bad and True Detective. The two narrative strands unspool through interlocking scenes, sometimes with accentual erasure, in order to keep the audience sharp to the dramatic parallels. And while the elements don't always come together harmoniously, the high-octane proceedings are never boring. Shepard's gift for tight, menacing language is sharp as ever, and the crack cast (which includes Tony winner Brid Brennan and, as the Oedipus figure, the great Stephen Rea) is, to a person, superb. A Particle of Dread concludes its run at the Pershing Square Signature Center on West 42nd Street this Sunday; it is brief, engrossing, and well-worth the effort.

[Sixth row center, TDF]

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