Memory Can Be a Sticky Swamp in La Brea


Like the famous tar pits, Gregory S. Moss’s La Brea—directed by Adam Greenfield, part of Clubbed Thumb’s 2013 Summerworks series—reminds us that memory can be a sticky swamp. And if you’re not careful, it might swallow you.

Leah (Rebecca Henderson), a compulsive kleptomaniac desperately nostalgic for a more secure home, comes to L.A. to stay with her brother, Steven (David Wilson Barnes). He’s an aging actor, running on dream-fumes, still maniacally pursuing his big break. As the duo plays house, hints of taboo eroticism and familial recrimination fog the air (the apartment, a ramshackle cardboard construction, sheds its walls to indicate dissolving delusions). The bicoastal sibs suggest national allegory: the East Coast obsessed with a dream of the past; the West with an equally airy dream of the future.

Part examination of siblinghood’s queasier side, part rueful meditation on fleeting time, part Hollywood satire, La Brea, like L.A. itself, tends to sprawl—but Moss’s exquisite dialogue and imaginative flights more than carry you through. (The production’s rendition of the forgotten cinematic genre of “farm noir” is bizarre brilliance.)

La Brea leaves its characters, and us, to ponder the difficult lesson of the swamps: How to escape fossilizing in regrets; how to imagine a future without obliterating the past.

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