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Theater review: 'Terminus Americana' at Elephant Theatre

July 23, 2009 |  1:30 pm

2. Hal Perry and Brett Hren The title of "Terminus Americana" refers to the tome of conspiracy theorem that drives Matt Pelfrey's coruscating satire. That volume is something of a Macguffin. The core focus of "Terminus" is the twilight of American empire, as refracted through a violence-infatuated media, which the jaggedly effective production by TheSpyAnts caustically embraces.

It begins benignly enough, as Mac Winchell (the excellent Brett Hren) takes a chirpy phone call from wife Brenda (CB Spencer). His confidential exchange with fellow employee Felix (Hal Perry) suggests the kind of corporate evisceration that Billy Wilder patented. 

Then Felix goes on a shooting rampage, whispers a tacit message to Mac before killing himself, and "Terminus" barrels into pitch-black absurdist territory.

Pelfrey ("An Impending Rupture of the Belly") possesses an unflinchingly original voice. If the polemic can be overt, that seems the point, with the accuracy of Pelfrey's broadsides both hilarious and disturbing.
Barring some halting transitions, director Danny Parker-Lopes keeps the tone grimly akimbo. The designs are sparely resourceful, and the cast (with alternates) is adept, impressively centered by Hren's antihero. At the reviewed performance, John Charles Meyer's outré executive, Maria Tomas' secret-society emissary, and Justin Dabuet and Adam Dornbusch as hacking Marlboro Men stood out amid an accomplished pack.

Written well before Sept. 11, 2001, the play premiered at Lodestone Theatre Ensemble shortly afterward. Its relevance has only deepened in the wake of subsequent gun-related national tragedies. "Terminus Americana" won't be for everyone -- but perhaps it should be.

--David C. Nichols

"Terminus Americana," Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 15. $20. (323) 860-8786. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.

Photo: Hal Perry and Brett Hren in "Terminus Americana." Credit: SpyAnts