Somos Gringos Malos, Somos Diablos Blancos (We Are Bad Gringos, We Are White Devils), Half Cocked Productions, at the Space. In writer-director Arik Martin's plays, the characters become more insightful when reality threatens to burst at the seams. His latest work--a gritty tale of seven escaped convicts hiding out in a villa just across the Mexican border--owes its lifeblood to Sam Shepard's Buried Child. Like Shepard, Martin understands that naturalism is more intriguing if given a few twists, and he's hell-bent on reestablishing high standards for apposite antiheroes, who had their heyday in 1970s antiauthoritarian art. In this play, Martin takes a murder-mystery scenario and turns it inside out, nimbly crafting characters whose actions are fairly straightforward until the end, when their motives become less clear rather than more.
Dieter Frank's spaghetti-western score sounds terrific over the room's crappy sound system and maintains the play's tone when poor sight lines obscure the action. And the Half Cocked ensemble--as always--prove adept at persuading the audience to identify with their cruel characters. But Martin's responsible for the sharpest shocks; the work is saturated with moral ambivalence. His embezzlers and thieves are as terrifying as his arsonists and rapists; a scene in which the least villainous character sends a Mexican prostitute to her doom is more disturbing than any of the play's other acts of violence.