Childhood sexual abuse may no longer be the unmentionable topic it once was, but that hasn't lessened its horror or salved the terrible scars borne by its victims. Powered by blistering performances, Gordon Edelstein's direction, playwright Dael Orlandersmith's one-act pivots around a confrontation between an unrecalcitrant alcoholic named Claire (Khandi Alexander) and her two grown children. Twins Leah (Tessa Auberjonois) and Steven (Tory Kittles) have both been maimed by a dark and baneful past. At Leah's bequest, the three meet after a five-year separation in an airport motel room a sterile environs (designer Takeshi Kata's tidy set) that contrasts sharply with the histrionic outpourings that soon follow. Leah's motive for summoning her mother and brother is to purge the obsessive rage that consumes her; in her recollection both had physically and/or sexually abused her. That recollection doesn't jibe with her brother's memory of things, nor with her mother who claims her own victim status and insists it was she who tried but failed to protect Leah from her pernicious, predatory dad. In Rashomon-like fashion, each recalls their own Stygian scenario, although all focus on the omnipresent ghost of Claire's drunken, fornicating partner whom she shared with the man's legally married wife. Highlighted by lighting designer Lap-Chi Chu's shifting shadows, Adam Phalen's sound, and the jarring lament of jazz musicians Doug Webb and Nedra Wheeler's live sax and bass, the story ripples with past and present time permutations. It's an hour-plus of maelstromlike intensity, with a star ensemble that never loses control. Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through August 8. (213) 628-2772.
Sat., July 31, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 1, 6:30 p.m.; Aug. 3-7, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 8, 1 & 6:30 p.m., 2010