They Want Their Money Back If You’re Alive at 33: WSC Avant Bard’s The Tooth of Crime

John Tweel sits atop a throne of guitars as Hoss.

I struggled with Kathleen Akerley‘s production of Sam Shepard‘s The Tooth of Crime after I saw it last weekend. The play is a fascinating time capsule of how much danger and possibility pop music, and rock and roll specifically, must’ve still had when Shepard wrote it back in 1972. That gives it a charm that partially compensates for the fact the (apparently) postapocalyptic world it’s set in is so cryptic and thinly drawn.

If you’re going to see it — and Tom Carman‘s performance is a good reason to, though you’ll have to stick around past intermission to see him — you’ll want to glance at the synopsis on Shepard’s official site or the play’s Wikipedia page first. I almost always do advance reconnaissance on a show I’m reviewing anyway, because you know, I’m a stone pro over here. But generally speaking, one shouldn’t need a synopsis just to be able to follow what’s happening.

(Irrelevant thing I learned: A 2006 revival of Shepard’s original version of the play — that is, not the revised mid-90s script that the production I reviewed uses — starred Ray Wise, who I actually had lunch with once. He treated me to his impression of Paul Verhoeven, who directed him in RoboCop, saying now I suppose that we are fucked! Nice guy, Ray Wise.)

Tom Carman is Crow, the reason to go.

Anyway. I’m still thinking about The Tooth of Crime a week after I saw it. So in a strange way I’m more grateful for this — a flawed production of a flawed play — than I am for the Shakepeare Theater Company‘s The Servant of Two Masters, a completely successful, crowd-pleasing revival of an 18th century comedy that many of my colleagues at the City Paper and elsewhere loved. Me? I liked it well enough but would have forgotten it entirely on the four-stop Metro ride home if I hadn’t had to write about it. Different strokes for different folks.

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