Blood and Thunder

Terence Anthony's drama is set in the second-floor apartment of a house in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina. Con man Marcus (Keith Arthur Bolden) has decided to try to weather the storm in his apartment, in hopes of making a killing in the aftermath. Now the winds are howling, the levees have broken, the waters are rising, the power is failing, and lethal water moccasins are emerging from the backed-up toilet. Worse still, Marcus' brother Quentin (Tony Williams) has escaped from jail and made his way through the rising waters to the apartment, despite being shot in the leg. Marcus nurses a raging enmity toward Quentin, who was his rival for the affections of Marcus' pregnant girlfriend, Charlie (Candice Afia). He also thinks Quentin was responsible for Charlie's being thrown from a balcony during an ill-starred confidence scheme. He holds Quentin at gunpoint, tormenting him relentlessly, till the brothers are locked in a death battle.

Anthony's script is tautly written, his characters are finely drawn, and the actors give solid performances, but the production is marred by an awkward and confusing nonlinear structure. Though the action seems continuous, it's interspersed with flashbacks and a fantasy sequence, so that it takes far too long to puzzle out the sequence of events.

Both brothers are feckless schemers, better at planning con games than at carrying them out, but they are finely contrasted. Bolden's Marcus is more ruthless and brutal, while Williams' Quentin is gentler, more desperate, and more conciliatory. Afia's Charlie is tough but vulnerable and painfully aware that both brothers are impractical dreamers. Director Sara Wagner elicits excellent performances from her actors, but one wishes she'd found clearer ways to differentiate between flashbacks, fantasy, and the ongoing reality of the hurricane. Jorge I. Velasquez provides the effectively fragmenting set, and Jason Duplissea's sound design keeps us aware of Katrina's mounting fury.

Presented by and at Moving Arts Hyperion Station, 1822 Hyperion Ave., L.A. Oct. 9–Dec. 19. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m. (323) 666-3259.