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Big Death & Little Death 

It's politically incorrect and offensive, but also hilarious

Wednesday, Feb 21 2007
When "Dad" walks onstage freshly returned from fighting in Desert Storm, his all-American pot-smoking son asks, "How was the war?" He answers quickly, "Sometimes you have to kill people to help them. At one point, I caught on fire." Without missing a beat "Mom" pipes in: "I had an affair with another man involving lots of heavy petting and oral sex!" This is the typical, rapid-fire dialogue that playwright Mickey Birnbaum writes, wasting no time getting hilariously to the point. Big Death was originally conceived as a short opening act for death-metal bands and revolves around two likable teenage siblings caught in a bizarrely dysfunctional family. They charismatically try to navigate illicit drugs (plenty of brilliant tweaker philosophy), inappropriate sex (blowjobs from the school guidance counselor), and inappropriate parenting (Dad likes to photograph his daughter in sexy crime-scene scenarios). Birnbaum is a successful Los Angeles screenwriter, which explains his penchant for using disjointed, short vignettes to accelerate the action. While some sections lag and are derivative of Beavis & Butthead, there is an exciting, palpable energy reminiscent of Mamet's Suburbia, and the brooding, doomsday flavor of Donnie Darko. It's a sharp satire that in its final moments turns into an apocalyptic fairy tale. — Nathaniel Eaton

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Nathaniel Eaton


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