A Murder of Crows
defunkt productions at the Backdoor Theater, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd, 993-9062,
Thurs-Sat 8 pm, Sun 4 pm, through October 16

As stars decay and species fall victim to extinction, language also decomposes and cycles back into the ether. With sure knowledge of the coming apocalypse in mind, playwright Mac Wellman's characters engage in a lyrical holy war, using language as beautiful and grotesque as the Old Testament, The Book of Mormon, and the works of L. Ron Hubbard. Wellman's stories, of course, take place in America, a place best suited for extremism and violent beauty. With A Murder of Crows, we are reminded that almost every age was certain of an apocalypse, whether by vengeful god or bomber pilot, simply because we all believe that the world should end with us, the last, the ultimate people.

Lord love defunkt theatre, which with each new production further asserts its own confident, quirky self-image. Wellman's The Bad Infinity got the defunkt treatment in 2002, a delirious brew of mysteriously connected snippets that turned linear theater inside out. Crows, directed by Kristan Seemel, has a clearer structure to it, but is no less bombastic than its predecessor. Set amid the bubbling primordial ooze of superfund America, Crows finds a family as its centerpiece, a split nucleus in the nuclear age. The actors are paired in thematic duets, with the occasional interruption by a trio of crows.

Siouxsie Suarez plays the matriarch Nella, who lives as a religious anchoress or a somnambulist, shirking the waking, physical world for the world of lucid dreams. Her son (Andy Cicerella) is a gilded warrior prince, sent back from the Iraq war (the first one) to pose as a golden idol among the lawn gnomes and Garden Weasels. Howard and Georgia (Tom Moorman and Ingrid Carlson) are the hate-spewing capitalists of the family, with souls blackened by casino luck. Susannah (Frances Binder) and Raymond (Ben Plont) are a daughter/father pair bound by a common curiosity, a craving for destruction, and a disregard for the materialist age of civilization. Both actors provide the play with a spooky charm, with Binder as the disarmingly cool poetess and Plont filling the stage with a furious, glacially impressive performance.

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