Lucy Thurber has given her excellent, gripping, and ambitious-yet-short Killers and Other Family a subtitle: “A play that functions as a waking nightmare.” Fortunately, that description is misleading—the play’s social awkwardness and violence ring utterly true, and its dips into surreality successfully intensify the drama.
As she completes her dissertation, grad student Elizabeth (Samantha Soule) receives the surprise house guests from hell—her brother, Jeff (Dashiell Eaves), and their devious, scorching-hot childhood friend, Danny (Shane McCrae), to whom she has a visceral attraction. Elizabeth has fought hard to discard her low-class country upbringing and adopt a liberal urban lifestyle in New York. But Jeff and Danny, awash in testosterone and on the run from a murder rap, replicate in her living room the backwoods values, danger, and ignorance she has fled. Jeff wants money to escape to Mexico; Danny demands immediate gratification. The roughnecks thrust Elizabeth into the past, and her lover, Clare (Aya Cash), face-first into the wall. And though Elizabeth endures all the conflict and combat, it seems to infect her with bad memories. Thurber’s bracing, streamlined drama recalls Shepard or O’Neill, but spares us the former’s image-making and the latter’s verbosity. The nearly perfect cast can only barely restrain the play’s wild heart.