Review On "The Unseen Hand" and "Killer's Head"


Joan Alperin

Writer, Registered Critic


When I think of the late Sam Shepard, his plays Fool for Love, True West, Buried Child and Curse of the Starving Class usually come to mind. I was totally unfamiliar with Killer’s Head and The Unseen Hand now playing as a double bill at the Odyssey in celebration of the theater’s 50th anniversary.

Killer’s Head first premiered at New York’s American Place Theatre in 1975 starring a then unknown Richard Gere. As part of the Odyssey’s Circa ’69 season, this ten-minute rambling monologue stars Steve Howey and will be played by several other actors throughout the run, including Dermot Mulroney. A blindfolded man is strapped into an electric chair as he awaits execution. It took me a few minutes to understand what was happening, as the murderer goes on and on about buying a new pickup truck and horse breeding and training. How avant-garde is the writing? The most interesting part was at the end: after a jarring light and loud noise, the man dies. I have no idea why Shepard wrote it. It’s James Joyce, Ambrose Bierce, and Sam Beckett on an LSD trip. Only Shepard cultists need apply.

Luckily the second play on the bill is much more interesting. The Unseen Hand is E.T. meets the Old West in Azusa. Meet the 120-year-old Blue Morphan (the excellent Carl Weintraub) who has been living for 20 years in the back of his broken-down 1951 Chevy convertible on the side of a highway.

Joan was born in Brooklyn and spent many years working as an actress in New York City. Even though she traveled extensively, Joan couldn't imagine living anywhere else.. Well one day, she met someone at a party who regaled her with stories about living in L. A. specifically Topanga Canyon. A few weeks later she found herself on an airplane bound for Los Angeles. Joan immediately fell in love with the town and has been living here for the last twenty years and yes, she even made it to Topanga Canyon, where she now resides, surrounded by nature, deer, owls and all kinds of extraordinary alien creatures.. Joan continued acting, but for the last several years (besides reviewing plays and film) she has been writing screenplays. Joan was married to a filmmaker who created the cult classic films, (way before she knew him) Faces of Death.