FREEDOMLAND, Salt Lake Acting Company, 168 W. 500 North; performances through May 20; tickets: $24.50-$26.50, available through ArtTix, 363-0526 (box office) or 355-2787. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (one intermission).

It doesn't take too long after getting acquainted with the self-absorbed Underfinger family — Noah, the father; daughters Sig and Polly; foul-mouthed son Seth; and Noah's second wife, high-octane sex therapist Claude — that nearly everybody in the clan is several revolutions shy of a brass ring.

Amy Freed's "Freedomland" gets its name from a long-defunct amusement park in the Bronx, where the Underfingers spent some relatively happy weekends years before. But their lives since have been one long, emotional roller-coaster ride (especially since their mother — Noah's first wife — abandoned them for a life as a hobo).

Between the scenes, as one weekend at the old homestead lurches bumpily along, there is whimsical calliope music. It masks the pain the family is feeling beneath the surface.

There is plenty of humor in Freed's play, but it's mostly in the sarcastic barbs lobbed back and forth as the family attempts to come to grips with itself.

"All of my offspring are springing back at me like the jaws of a loaded wolf trap," Noah says to his wife after the kids have come home for a somewhat rocky reunion.

Guest director Kirstie Gulick Rosenfeld, helped immensely by Keven Myhre's attention-to-detail set, has an exceptional cast.

Marylynn Alldredge gives a mesmerizing performance as Polly, who's constantly being chided for never finishing her doctoral dissertation on the secret lives of the women in "The Iliad," and Gretchen Whalley adds a generous dose of spunk and sass as Lori, Seth's very pregnant backwoods girlfriend.

Bob Ormsby is perfectly cast as Noah, the family patriarch who's feeling a little lost after his retirement from a third-rate college and the fact that he's "an unpublished . . . no, an unwritten . . . novelist," and Kathryn Atwood cuts a wild swath through the proceedings as a quirky sex therapist (aptly nicknamed "The Bride of Frankenstein" by Sig).

Sig, who is on the verge of turning the visual arts world upside-down with her clown renderings, is nicely played by Teri Cowan, with Paul Kiernan bulldozing his way through the weekend as Seth, Noah's rough-hewn survivalist son (whose vocabulary consists almost entirely of R-rated four-letter words).

Francis Reyes gives a knockout performance as Titus, senior editor of New Arts magazine. He's dragged to Noah's home to do a story on Sig but gets far more than he bargained for with Claude. (Reyes' wild-eyed, morning-after Latin rantings from "Oedipus" are hilarious.)

There are some poignant, very telling, moments as well, including Polly, Lori and Sig together on the roof one evening, and Noah and his three kids reflecting on the last time they went to Freedomland together — for Seth's birthday, the day before their mother packed up and moved out.

Sensitivity rating: An excessive amount of foul language, plus Claude's exuberant sexual posturing.


E-mail: ivan@desnews.com