DAD’S HAM, Trap Door Theatre. Catherine Sullivan is destined to become a great voice in the American avant-garde. But for now she’s holed up in Trap Door’s tiny theater, creating more thoughtful, aggravating, mysterious, entertaining moments in an hour than most companies can in a season. Dad’s Ham, which Sullivan wrote and directed, is a hallucinogenic maelstrom of styles and forms with no easy outs for the audience. Nothing satisfies in a conventional sense, yet nearly everything engrosses.

Reminiscent of New York’s influential Wooster Group as well as Chicago’s uncategorizable Doorika, Dad’s Ham is made up of seemingly unrelated pieces: a butcher carving her assistant with a cleaver while discussing the powers of Cupid, a forest ranger lamenting the fact that she’s actually a cow drinking radiated water from bomb-test craters, actors breaking into bouts of robotic air guitar in the middle of scenes. All these bits collide under the metatheatrical eye of a video camera, which turns the live performance into a slick imitation of itself. Throughout, two actresses perform conventional scenes about murderous and/or licentious women, scripted in perfect imitation of Greek, Elizabethan, Restoration, and sitcom theater. Eliciting nuanced, mercurial performances from her cast of seven, Sullivan suspends the audience in a kind of preconscious state in which irresolvable but profound images seize the brain. It might take five viewings to understand this piece–because it’s ten times more intelligent than most anything else you’ll see this year.

–Justin Hayford