Decapitation, hair fetishes, cross-dressing and insane ice-cream men: sounds like a John Waters film. Well, maybe not, but Waters would probably appreciate the non-sequitur, pop-cultural stew that bubbles over in UCSB’s recent production of John Guare’s “Landscape of the Body.”

The main theme explored is human fallibility. Single mother Betty and her son Bert attempt to reunite their family in Bangor, Maine. They travel to New York to retrieve an estranged member of their clan, but end up staying and becoming screw-ups. The play continues on a similar note, focusing on the interaction between mother, son and an entire cast of atypical screw-ups. Bert is ultimately murdered and Betty blamed for the act. The opportunity to add a modern twist to the classical tragic descent is unfortunately lost by songs with lyrics such as “I wanted to be a druid” and jokes that would only crack a smile with Generation Xers.

While not deeply moving, this interpretation of Guare’s work is entertaining, with an emphasis on high production values and bold directorial choices. Audience interaction, selection and usage of props, sound effects and lighting are held to the highest standard. One lighting effect, the use of the color red, is particularly well applied. Just before Bert is killed, a red light shines on both him and his murderer. The light is then dimmed after the crime and lingers to create the impression of bloodshed.

The on-campus acting ability ranged from professional to that of student growing pains. Senior Caitlin Ferrara gave a mixed performance as Betty, the misguided single mother stuck in a life within the softcore porn industry. Though clearly talented, at times Ferrara fell out of character and had difficulty returning to her role. Perhaps it was due to the complexity of the material – Betty’s transformation is a delicate U-turn; she begins as a character seemingly virtuous and good, but inevitably returns to bad habits, reverting to a life of fraud and debauchery.

As a Cuban, cross-dressing travel agent, Anthony Lam’s part, although small, was the necessary source for the play’s comic relief. The most skilled performance by far was Jaron Farham’s interpretation of Durwood Peach, an insane ice-cream man who tries to reclaim Betty’s love. Not only did he have the Southern drawl and demeanor down pat, his acting reflected the greatest intensity, depth, and advanced character development of any actor in the company.

Like the melting pot that it is, the strength of the city where “Landscape of the Body” takes place is in the diversity of its people – it’s what keeps the city that never sleeps in running order twenty-four hours a day. In that way, the Big Apple and the UCSB drama department have something in common: they bring different points of view to the mix, then stir, simmer and deliver a piece of theater, fresh and tasty. And they deliver in just under two hours.