The Late Henry Moss by Sam Shepard, directed by Brendon Allen, with Jonah Allison, Christian McKenna, Graeme Stewart, Christina Serra, Shaun Setty and Jason O'Brien. Presented by Dog Eared Productions at Tallulah's Cabaret (12 Alexander). Runs to July 24, Thursday-Saturday 7:30 pm. $16. 416-975-8555. Rating: NN
When Sam Shepard's the late Henry Moss debuted in 2000, it boasted a starry cast that included Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and Woody Harrelson, with the writer himself directing. (A documentary about that production is forthcoming.) I mention those names only to suggest the power that experienced scenery-chewers like Penn and Nolte could bring to Shepard's less than inspired play.
In this staging by the young company Dog Eared Productions, Shepard's play about two estranged brothers who meet up at their recently-deceased father's New Mexico hovel is reduced to little more than a shouting match. The ticket should come with a pair of earplugs.
Like many of his earlier works, Moss is a memory play involving brothers, an abusive father and delicate temporal shifts. Although the time changes surprise, director Brendon Allen fails to find the poetry or humour buried in much of the dialogue, so there's a monotonous tone that makes a long play (more than two and a half hours) feel even longer.
There's also confusion about the play's point of view, with one brother, Ray (an undisciplined Jonah Allison ), looking on during much of the action to little effect.
The performers generally alternate between quiet introspection and rafter-shaking screaming. The only bright spot is Jason O'Brien 's taxi driver, a character unwittingly caught in this testosterone-laden dysfunctional showdown.