As an inaugural staging, Studio Five Productions’ revival of Sam Shepard’s 1985 complex, fractured-memory fable proves an auspicious and appropriate debut. Director John Langs’ vibrant production is not only handsomely mounted and caustically funny, but, for a play about self-deception and misremembering, it goes a long way toward finally wiping away the memory of the Taper’s 1988 austere, Robert Woodruff–helmed L.A. premiere. Believing he’s killed his wife, Beth (Natalie Avital), in a jealous rage, Jake (Lance Kramer) flees to his Southern California boyhood home to hide out with his overly doting, widowed mother, Lorraine (Casey Kramer), and black-sheep sister, Sally (Maury Morgan). Unbeknownst to Jake, Beth has survived the assault and been whisked away by her overprotective brother, Mike (P.J. Marshall), to the rural Montana home of their bombastic father, Baylor (John Combs) and ditsy mother, Meg (Jennifer Toffel). While Jake and Beth recover from their respective traumas — his a self-lacerating guilt that has transformed him into a cowering wreck; hers a severe concussion that has left her physically and mentally impaired — the story’s one truth seeker, Jake’s brother Frankie (Logan Fahey), is himself crippled when the befuddled Baylor literally shoots the messenger. While myriad hidden truths will eventually come out, it’s not before Shepard lays bare the self-deluding, foundational myths of each family in blistering parodies of Greek tragedy and frontier lore. Along the way, Langs and his flawless ensemble nimbly navigate the difficult transition between brutal domestic violence and sly, screwball farce, aided by Dwayne Burgess’ elegantly expressionistic set, Travis McHale’s atmospheric lights and the dramatic punch of Tim Labor’s sound. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through December 20. (888) 534-6001 or studiofiveproductions.org. Studio Five Productions.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Nov. 12. Continues through Dec. 20, 2009

LA Weekly