For 25 years, Mad Horse Theatre Company has been delivering hard-hitting productions. Saturday marked the opening of the theater’s first Sam Shepard play, and perhaps one of its most intense productions. In “The Late Henry Moss,” Mad Horse provides a disturbing look at the lasting effects of domestic violence.

The play opens on the outskirts of Bernalillo, N.M., in the late 1980s, at the home of the deceased Henry Moss (David Blair). Estranged brothers Earl (Peter Brown) and Ray (Matt Delamater) have reunited to hash out their father’s death, his putrefying body still lying in bed, untouched, three days after his death.

Glass by glass the brothers drain a bottle of their father’s Wild Turkey, and a two-part mystery begins to unfold.

It’s clear from the start that there is bad blood between them, but they have disparate recollections of the painful event from their youth that culminated with their father moving to New Mexico.

Now, Henry’s enigmatic death provides a new mystery. And Ray, the younger of the two brothers, becomes obsessed with unraveling the truth behind both.

The past and present bleed together as he relentlessly investigates the events leading up to his father’s death, with the audience not just hearing about the events, but also seeing them cleverly re-enacted.

As a taxi driver (Burke Brimmer) recounts his tale, the lighting changes and he’s transported back to the day before Henry’s death, when he was called from Albuquerque to take Henry and his sultry girlfriend, Conchalla (Karen Ball), fishing.

Later, the present again morphs into the past as Henry’s neighbor, Esteban (Harlan Baker), recalls Henry’s final hours. With each time shift, Ray becomes an unmoving statue, as if frozen in time.

Emotions run high and tempers flare in this extremely realistic portrayal of a dysfunctional family. The brothers have clearly followed in their alcoholic father’s footsteps, and neither is happy with the path life has chosen for him. As the play progresses, both become more volatile, with Ray’s aggression, in particular, building to a frightening level of intensity.

Mad Horse’s eight-member cast delivers a no-holds-barred, powerful performance that is sure to make some viewers squirm in their seats. Blair, as Henry, is the quintessential drunk, haunted by his past deeds. Brown and Delamater, as Earl and Ray, seethe with anger and hostility that erupt in graphic acts of violence. The play also contains full-frontal nudity from Ball’s sassy, uninhibited character, Conchalla.

Baker and Brimmer provide fascinating character portrayals as pieces to the overall puzzle that’s falling into place on stage. David Branch and Brian Reeves round out the cast as funeral attendants.

The theater’s new home at Lucid Stage is an up-close-and-personal space that dissolves the barriers between the audience and the production. Viewers can expect to feel the passion and emotion of the characters as if it’s a real-life drama, playing out before their eyes.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

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