Somos Gringos Malos, Somos Diablos Blancos (We Are Bad Gringos, We Are White Devils), Half Cocked Productions, at the Space. In writer-director Arik Martin’s plays, the characters become more insightful when reality threatens to burst at the seams. His latest work–a gritty tale of seven escaped convicts hiding out in a villa just across the Mexican border–owes its lifeblood to Sam Shepard’s Buried Child. Like Shepard, Martin understands that naturalism is more intriguing if given a few twists, and he’s hell-bent on reestablishing high standards for apposite antiheroes, who had their heyday in 1970s antiauthoritarian art. In this play, Martin takes a murder-mystery scenario and turns it inside out, nimbly crafting characters whose actions are fairly straightforward until the end, when their motives become less clear rather than more.

Dieter Frank’s spaghetti-western score sounds terrific over the room’s crappy sound system and maintains the play’s tone when poor sight lines obscure the action. And the Half Cocked ensemble–as always–prove adept at persuading the audience to identify with their cruel characters. But Martin’s responsible for the sharpest shocks; the work is saturated with moral ambivalence. His embezzlers and thieves are as terrifying as his arsonists and rapists; a scene in which the least villainous character sends a Mexican prostitute to her doom is more disturbing than any of the play’s other acts of violence.