It's been said that all great travelers wind up in the desert. Nature at its most unchanging, the desert is a pure and ferocious landscape with few distractions, where the mind's eye can be cast inward.
After many literary peregrinations, John Steppling ventures into the desert in "Dog Mouth," a play set in an arid wasteland somewhere outside of Phoenix. One of L.A.'s most distinctive home-grown playwrights, Steppling has spent the last few years in Europe, a fugitive from the soulless grind of the California dream machine. For Steppling, the play's current production at the Evidence Room proves both a homecoming and a departure.
Many of Steppling's past plays, such as "The Shaper" and "Dream Coast," were indigenous L.A. dramas inextricably linked to Hollywood and its environs. Down-and-outers scrabbling on the margins of Hollywood, the characters in those plays were typically sub-literates defined by their consumerist longings, whose drug abuse and criminal behavior brought them no closer to their shallow, shining dream.
The setting of "Dog Mouth"--the Arizona desert--is, in itself, a statement of intent for Steppling, a stripping away of the "Steppling-esque" elements that define his work. In this stark desert landscape, there is no there there--nothing to covet and little to desire--just a train track and sand, the central components of Jason Adams' strikingly spare set.