Sam Shepard continues to explore the yet untamed American West in this semi-autobiographical drama about an abusive father and husband whose emotional death occurs on the day he finally understands the depth of his wife’s grief and love. The Late Henry Moss is “a journey through classic Shepard country . . . at once familiar and heartbreakingly new. The play . . . a flashback-driven mystery that uncovers the circumstances and emotional heat of Henry Moss’ death . . .rises, in a transfixing third-act encounter with death itself, to a rare state of theatrical grace. The playwright reaches uncharted emotional depths in his recurring theme of scarred and haunted families in a mythically vanquished American West.” Two antagonistic brothers, Ray and Earl, are brought together after their father, Henry Moss, is found dead in his seedy New Mexico home. Henry was a harassing, arrogant drunk, and his sons have inherited his worst qualities. Roy is determined to uncover the mysterious circumstances of Henry’s death. In three acts, the story of the father’s last days unfolds in flashbacks.
4th Wall returns with blistering show THEATER REVIEW By Paul Kolas TELEGRAM & GAZETTE REVIEWER
‘The Late Henry Moss’
“Playwright Sam Shepard has made a living mining his own harrowing familial experiences, in such works as “True West,” Lie of the Mind” and “Buried Child.”
“The Late Henry Moss” is no exception, a mesmerizing, volatile fever dream of a play that 4th Wall Stage Company brought to scorching life Saturday evening. . . . .
Director Robbin Joyce has done a stellar job of pitching her superb cast through this minefield at just the right volume or corrosive emotion and, believe it or not, dark humor. . . . .
Shepard uses dialogue as a battering ram to raise scenes to the level of unsettling confrontation, a series of steady jabs of repetition leading to a knockout blow, mostly brutal, sometimes comic. . . . .
D’Angelo and Carr are great comic relief, responding in different ways to the pressure of Ray’s schoolyard tactics to get to the bottom of the facts, D’Angelo with a devilishly wry sense of humor and Carr with nervous patronizing. Sears plays the temptress Conchalla with fine, sexually-charged insouciance, especially in a flashback bathtub scene, after she and Henry have returned from their fishing expedition.
But Bartucca, O’Connor and Stanco are the powerhouse trio of this remarkable production. Bartucca is nothing short of scary as Henry in the play’s flashbacks, delivering every line with an impressive assortment of vitriol, sometimes in an idling, low growl, mostly at a full throttle roar that would send any son out the door for good. With overwhelming command, he makes Henry an abusive, contemptible father figure . . . . .
. . . . It’s no accident that this play follows 4th Wall Stage Company’s splendid presentation of Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” another tale of a dysfuntional, alcoholic family, starring an irreparably damaged father and two inimical brothers.
O’Connor does a terrific job of shielding Earl’s interior wounded psyche with a performance rich in exterior bluster. His voice rumbles with an underlying tone of irritability, impatience and muddled distraction, sadly the heir apparent to his father’s drinking prowess, minus the cruelty.
Stanco defines Ray with pit bull brilliance, chewing through Shepard’s circuitous writing style with perfect cadence, long stretches of confounded silence shattered by alarming bursts of verbal and physical violence. His Ray is a fidgety powder keg that prods Earl to unwanted levels of exasperation and temper that O’Connor imparts with gravelly authority.
. . . . 4th Wall Stage Company, now in its second season, deserves a salute for providing the local theater scene with such an unusual and provocative work, and doing it so well.”