A direct rejoinder to the invasion of Iraq isn't a move you'd expect from playwright Sam Shepard, whose gritty, near-biblical take on the American West usually reveals more dark personal reflection than political tirade. All the same, Shepard's play The God of Hell
, about the post-9/11 shrinkage of national sanity and the rise of fear-induced patriotism, points to his customary preoccupation with the sinister underbelly of Americana. In a Village Voice
interview, Shepard wryly commented on what prompted the play, which premiered shortly before the 2004 national elections: "We're being sold a brand-new idea of patriotism. ... It never occurred to me that patriotism had to be advertised. ... It's breeding fear of being on the wrong side."
The story concerns a couple, Frank and Emma, ostensibly neutral to government affairs and complacent in their Wisconsin dairy farm existence. Their life is upended when Hanes, a friend trying to escape some unnamed government imbroglio, decides to hide out in their basement. Soon Welch, a smarmy peddler of American flags, noses his way into their lives, in the process becoming an obvious stand-in for the browbeating jingoism Shepard so dislikes. As wickedly farcical as The God of Hell might be, its look at the toxicity of conformity might be a bit too literal to be truly subversive.
Sept. 23-Oct. 22