A 2 x 4
defunkt theater
The Back Door, 993-9062
Through Oct 13

What I'm beginning to appreciate more and more about the folk at defunkt (sic) theatre every time I see them, is their courage in the face of chaos. They eat chaos for breakfast. They showed it last spring with their daring production of Charles Mee's Investigation of the Murder in El Salvador, and they are showing it again right now with their production of two one-acts by the same-named, fabulously zany child of the '60s playwright, Sam Shepard: Cowboys #2 and Action. Cowboys #2 follows two men (James Moore and Tom Galup), who seem to be caught up in a weird imaginary game. A blinking street barricade informs that we're definitely not in the Old West, and yet horses gallop, bullets fly, and vultures hover as the two men enact scene after scene on the cowboy theme. Occasionally, their tumbleweed spell is broken by contemporary lingo. One minute, they'll be drawling on about their boots, and the next, they'll be arguing about them, using modern epithets to curse each other out. It's all very chaotic, but in that cool, controlled, creepy Becketian sense, where the characters seem to be trapped in a minimalist world that is decaying around them.

Moore and Galup are more than up to the task of portraying these kooks, with Galup's intensity perfectly offsetting Moore's amiable innocence. Their chemistry is not as strong in Action, but that could be because Shepard intended for the characters to be isolated from each other; in the same room together, but disconnected by despair and loneliness. Action follows a group of four who seem to be living in the mountains somewhere as they eat their Christmas dinner--a slightly normal set-up for one of the strangest sequences of events that I've ever seen on stage. A fish is arbitrarily skinned, gutted, and cleaned; one character, Shooter (Moore), declares himself inextricably (not to mention hilariously) bound to a king-sized armchair; a small turkey is devoured, the eaters grunting and slurping like beasts.

What it all adds up to is hardly important. In Shepard's world, and defunkt's, chaos is the norm. You will quickly learn to accept it and look forward to it. You will have no choice, in fact, for the inherent unpredictability of well-done chaos grips even the casual viewer with iron hands.