The scabrous, dank, vaguely subterranean world of "No Trespassing Zone" at the aptly named Mean Street Ensemble in West Hollywood is guerrilla theater as its most visceral.
Here's a young company with the ferocity and the technical skills to make theatergoing seem like a novel experience.
The tiered arena seating, with music from the Blasters punctuating the action, lurches you into the playing ring.
The setting is a desolate urban war zone framed by wire mesh fencing, spare tires, rotting mattresses--a vision of a cesspool unbearably familiar where the young and the wild and the homeless scavenge and kill one another over turf.
This original environmental work was written, directed and designed by Colin Patrick Lynch. He's a conjurer of starkness who obviously has a vision and the gifts (including a strong cast) to wear three hats and strike a graphic note with each.
In the early moments, "No Trespassing Zone" seems pretentious because Craig Pierce's lighting scheme is unsettling.
But gradually his murky, violent design becomes a textbook example of light that casts a spell as important as the dialogue. The darkness slashed with smoky light compresses and tightens the fear and the passions among these sinewy warriors in their shredded garments.
Without stretching the point, this back-alley play is a '90s worst-case scenario of the Sharks and the Jets, a Purgatory of animal instincts, even among the heroes.
A taciturn savior played by Matt Lyn, true to a "noise warning" in the program, literally fires .32-caliber blank cartridges. Lindsay Kennedy is the wiry villain, whose viper's nest of a "family" comprises a steely youth (Dalton Grant) who sports a Tomahawk hair style and is named Kirowaak (as in Jack Kerouac) and a garrulous, cowering mousy brother (the excellent Adam Karpel) called the Runt.
Two vituperative, snarly females, ablaze like the Furies, are vividly performed by Liz Lavoie and Evie Peck, and a football jock called Meat, sweet at heart, is played by Evan R. Press.
The Mean Street Ensemble captures the jungle out there because it has the artistic focus to take a nightmare and make it rock 'n' roll.
"No Trespassing Zone," the Mean Street Ensemble, 1455 N. Gordon St., West Hollywood, Thursdays through Sundays, 8:30(cq) p.m. Ends Feb. 10. $7-$10. (213) 957-1335. Running time: 2 hours.