Who would have imagined that butterflies, when swallowed, could produce hallucinogenic visions, or that they would lead to the city's apocalyptic destruction? That would be Philip Ridley, whose dark and disturbing drama "Mercury Fur" is receiving its New York premiere Off-Broadway.
Set in an abandoned, boarded-up apartment complex (atmospherically depicted in Scott Elliott's in-the-round staging), drug-dealing and gang-affiliated teen Elliot (Zane Pais) and his younger, slower brother Darren (Jack DiFalco) have arrived in search of a place to hold a private party.
This is to be no ordinary party. With law and order apparently abandoned, the brothers have been hired to meticulously construct their high-paying customer's fantasy of entering the jungles of Vietnam and interrogating a suspected spy, specifically a little Asian boy dressed up like Elvis and singing "Love Me Tender."
Even with help from Elliott's lover (Paul Iacono) and a friendly next-door neighbor (Tony Revolori), putting the event together turns out to be extremely difficult, especially when their boss Spinx (Sean McHale) shows up with his delirious, blind girlfriend "the Duchess" (Emily Cass McDonnell).
When the party finally gets underway, it is beset with chaos and violence, and a sudden military strike out on the streets may lead to everyone's demise.
Running two hours without an intermission, "Mercury Fur" is a consistently engrossing thriller, a black comedy and a sad, sympathetic portrait of young adults trying to survive in a society gone the way of "Lord of the Flies."
Much of the dialogue consists of characters' thinking back -- or at least attempting to think back -- on their former lives. Although this slows down the plotting, their memories add intrigue, alluding to what led to this new world order and hinting that some the character relationships are deeper than expected.
If you go: "Mercury Fur" plays at the Pershing Square Signature Center through Sept. 27. 480 W. 42nd St., thenewgroup.org.