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LA Theater Review

Buffalo Hole

Robert Riechel Jr. offered a deliciously demented satire of the world of theater in his 2008 comedy "Eat the Runt." He meets with far less success in his latest outrageous script, this poor-white-trash saga, which combines a bit of Sam Shepard with a hint of Tracy Letts, a smidgen of Grand Guignol, and a surplus of off-putting wannabe shock humor. This relentlessly unpleasant piece never seems as engaging or as provocative as Riechel presumably intended, despite the efforts of a capable cast.

In a dilapidated mobile home in North Dakota, decorated Vietnam vet Patton L. Strong (Peter Gannon) passes down the despicable verbal abuse he received from his father to the next generation, his two sons: the daring Braggart (Riechel) and the sissified Jessop (Eric Bloom). Years later, there are surprises in store when Braggart summons the family members home. Braggart got revenge on his hateful pop after the old man won the lottery. Braggart took the money away from dad, strung him up by his feet, began amputating his body parts, and plans to murder him. Besides the return of Jessop to the hostile household, joining the brood are sister Sara (Maury Morgan in an underwritten role) and the family's inexplicably pregnant 60-year-old matriarch, Eva (Suzanne Voss).

Why any of this is supposed to be amusing is never quite clear. Director Zeke Rettman and the hard-working actors put forth admirable efforts under the circumstances, but the play never achieves a coherent narrative, let alone a theme that makes sense. It ambles along for about 75 minutes in its scattershot attempt to startle us, then just fizzles out. Danny Cistone's sprawling set and Matt Richter's textured lighting are impressive. Too bad this company's efforts weren't expended on a worthier vehicle.

Presented by Living Edge Theaterworks at the Arena Stage at Theatre of Arts, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood. March 27–May 1. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m. (323) 960-4443.

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