HOW TO BRANDISH A WEAPON, Hermit Arts, at Prop Thtr. Given all the debate about national security, Hermit Arts picked a propitious time to examine the subjects of violence and domination. Eight writers and six actors have managed to collaborate on this show without indulging in obvious pieties, instead providing plenty of off-kilter humor and chilling absurdity.

As directed by writers Jonathan Putman and Idris Goodwin, these scenes, monologues, and songs err on the side of formlessness, but the actors deliver well-calibrated performances. In the strongest segments, a performer in silhouette delivers a monologue in the persona of a particular weapon: baseball bat, blackjack, frying pan. Fear, Inc.–a corporation personified by Adam “Seemore” Rangel–suggests the disheartening gullibility of humanity: “You don’t got to give ’em a reason to be afraid. They’ll make up their own based on whatever bullshit Uncle Frank told them at Thanksgiving.” Conspiracy theories, family dysfunction, psychotherapy, and artistic jealousy all come into focus in this discursive but beguiling take on our true national pastime: figuring out how to bash the hell out of the other guy first.