Hard rock life

Tooth of Crime

Andy Luna as Crow and Lewis Zaumeyer as Hoss rehearse at Jub Jub's.

Andy Luna as Crow and Lewis Zaumeyer as Hoss rehearse at Jub Jub's.

Photo/Eric Marks

Tooth of Crime is presented at the Jub Jub's Showroom, 71 S. Wells Ave., March 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21 at 8 p.m. and March 15 and 21 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15, and available at Jub Jub's, The Melting Pot, and BrownPaperTickets.com.

Don’t call it a musical. Don’t call it a rock opera. Don’t even call it a play. According to the cast and crew of the upcoming theatrical production Tooth Of Crime, what you can expect to find in the showroom of Jub Jub’s will be an “environmental rock experience.”

“Basically, it’s going to become clear to the audience that they’re not allowed to leave,” explained actor and producer Scott Dundas.

“Once they’re in, they’re going to realize that they’re not observers, they’re a part of this, and that they can’t get out,” added actor-producer Lewis Zaumeyer.

If this sounds a bit dodgy, the production team of Tooth of Crime understands. They stress that this show is not for the faint of heart, or for anyone unwilling to step out of his or her comfort zone. Their goal is not just to put on a theatrical production, but to use the space to create a world for the audience to enter.

The producers hope the audience will be transported into a post-apocalyptic desert compound, with a crudely constructed throne room in the center. This is the kingdom of a guerrilla leader known only as Hoss, the king and rock god who sits on the throne. Local punk band Vampirates, along with Reno rock veteran Jeff Done, will crank up the volume, delivering a punch right off the bat. Live pyrotechnics and industrial effects will light up the room.

“The show starts with a bang,” said director Dave Richards. “We aim to blow people’s fucking minds.”

Tooth Of Crime was written by Sam Shepard in 1972, at the height of rock star culture in America. The plot follows Hoss as he uncovers the impermanence of his majestic persona in the face of a younger, tougher rocker who seeks to dethrone him. Many have read it as a satire of the fickle pop music audience that always seeks the newer and hotter trend. Zaumeyer, who stars as Hoss, reads a deeper level into the character’s motivations.

“It’s all about his hyper-ego,” Zaumeyer explained. “Hoss is ruthless, relentless, unforgiving. But he’s totally intent on finding his true purpose.”

“It’s a weird mirror for Lewis, who is nothing like this guy,” said Richards. “Here’s this total zen person in real life, and he’s playing a killer.”

Zaumeyer and Richards agree that Tooth of Crime is violent, but they promise that none of the blood will fall on the audience.

“It’s not gonna be like a Gallagher show,” laughed Zaumeyer. “The audience is going to be in it, but no one will die. Your emotions might get messed around with, you might get squeamish, but you’ll live.”

T-Bone Burnett wrote the music for Tooth Of Crime, but Richards felt that the songs were too atmospheric, moody, and cinematic for his production. His decision to use the fury of the Vampirates gave the piece a new layer of raw energy.

“As far as interpretation goes, we have the songs spelled out for us,” said Done. “But we want to rock a little harder than T-Bone Burnett.”

The idea of producing Tooth Of Crime occurred to Richards, Zaumeyer and Dundas a decade ago while working as a part of Brüka Theatre. They spent those 10 years being told by their contemporaries that the script couldn’t be done, that the challenge was simply too immense.

“I figure, with all these people telling me it’s impossible, it’s our chance to really push the envelope,” said Richards.

“Anyone who loves the unusual, anyone who’s a musician or enjoys good theater should come,” said Zaumeyer. “Just be ready.”