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'massacre' Carries Blunt-Force Message

November 20, 1998|PHILIP BRANDES

If you think home is where the heart is, "massacre" at Hollywood's Theatre of Note begs to differ.

As a trio of Colorado sisters (Jacqueline Wright, Dana Wieluns and Lauren Roedy Vaughn) with a tenuous grasp on normality contemplate the sale of their aging parents' house, their squabbling becomes a microcosmic mirror for social conflicts rooted in economics, sex and race. Nor is their situation unique--a neighboring family (David Bickford, Esther Ives Williams and Fay Kato) is wracked with similar turbulence. An edgy historical overlay recounts the last U.S. Indian uprising, which occurred in the same region in 1879, narrated by a rooftop-dwelling handyman (Darrett Sanders).

The title pretty much says it all: Combative, arty and uncompromising, director-writer Steve Morgan Haskell's performance piece is a full-bore assault on linear plot, continuity of character and all the trappings of a well-made play. The intensity and focus of the clearly committed cast impressively fuels its surreal writhing, gyrating, hypnotic monologues.

But these speeches often lack the necessary gutter eloquence to keep them from sounding labored and self-consciously avant, and the sustained pitch of unwavering agitation in place of modulated emotions can ultimately prove exhausting. Though not without its intriguing experimental charms, "massacre" will probably appeal to a pretty specialized audience.--P.B.

*

* "massacre," Theatre of Note, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays--Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Dec. 12. $7-$12. (323) 856-8611. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.

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