Four Stars
The cricket chirrups and increasingly loud coyote howls that punctuate this all too rare revival of Sam Shepard's 1980 trawl through the dark heart of America may sound real in Phillip Breen's production. In the end, however, as Max Jones's cinemascope design makes clear, we all know it is as make-believe as a movie. 
The quest for authenticity is what drives Eugene O'Hare's bookish Austin, who, on the verge of a life-changing deal, has holed himself up in his mother's place, tapping out an old-time love story in suburban bliss. Austin's world is turned upside down when his deranged petty thief brother Lee turns up out of the blue from his desert hidey-hole.
Where Austin peddles implausible dreams on the page, Lee's manic, booze-soaked stories of a wilder world beyond convinces Steven Elliot's hustler producer Saul to take a chance on his pop-eyed take on blockbuster sensationalism over art.  As the brothers' roles are reversed in increasingly manic fashion, the veneer of civilisation itself seems to collapse in on them as the domestic shell they're occupying is smashed to pieces.
Originally produced at a time when the excesses of the 1960s-sired generation of maverick film directors were about to be reined in and horse-traded for something more formulaic, Shepard's play is now a period piece from a pre-laptop, pre-YouTube age where even the most independent auteur was working for the man. With explicit nods to familial dysfunction via an absent father, Shepard's text is also shot through with the myth-making extremes of Greek tragedy.
It is a relentless and increasingly demented ride, with Alex Ferns driving the action as Lee with a ferocity which, when matched by Austin's toaster-stealing routine as Lee batters the typewriter into submission with a golf-club, looks like a wilfully absurdist parody. Even their Mom, played by Barbara Rafferty with resigned whey-faced acceptance, can't tell what is real anymore. 
As the two men square up to each other while the stage fades to black, the call of the wild beyond the fake four walls that bind them both may save them yet.