One-act play. Forensic & the Navigators is a 30-minute struggle between the counterculture and the muscle behind the ruling class. We're in the hideout of two guys and a girl. Forensic and Emmett sit across from each other, dressed as a cowboy and an Indian, respectively, planning some kind of insurrection while smoking a peace pipe. Oolan serves them Rice Krispies, eats a pancake, and does a song and dance. She's dressed in a hospital gown and acts as if she just escaped from a loony bin, which might be the place that Forensic and Emmett are trying to liberate. Eventually, two Exterminators barge in and start ordering everybody around.

The classic Shepard-switcheroo of social standing and identity takes place. Who are the outcasts and who is the establishment? Are Forensic and Emmett more at odds with the Exterminators or with each other? Whose side is Oolan on? The play is a Silly Putty version of the Sixties—a passionate but divided (and somewhat crazy) underground movement against thugs in uniforms representing a system that has betrayed everyone.

Performance History

 Theatre Genesis, New York, 29 Dec. 1967 - directed by Ralph Cook with cast: Lee Kissman and O-Lan Shepard
Revived: Off-Broadway in double bill with The Unseen Hand at Astor Place Theater - April 1, 1970. Directed by Jeff Bleckner with Peter Maloney, David Clennon, O-lan Johnson-Shepard, Tom Rosica and Ron Abbott.


April 1, 1970 performance - reviewed by Clive Barnes, NY Times, 4/02/70:

Despite my worst instincts, I cannot prevent myself from mildly loving the plays of Sam Shepard. He is so sweetly unserious about his plays, and so desperately serious, about what he is saying. Mr. Shepard is perhaps the first person to write good disposable plays. He may well do down in history as the man who became to drama what Kleenex was to the handkerchief. And just like Kleenex, he may well overcome...

In the intermission between the plays, one was able to wander into the theater's spacious foyer, where a rock combo was playing with unabated enthusiasm. I was told that Mr. Shepard was on drums, and I thought he was jolly good.

Mr. Shepard is an easy playwright to act. He has a sure touch for the way people talk, and although his explosions of conversation - hand grenades thrown at an uneasy consciousness - may seem to have only a marginal relevance to the matter no longer in hand, each splutter of awareness has its own strict and effective conversational rules. Dialogue in Mr. Shepard follows along the lines of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. I find myself wondering whether this altogether bad. At least he leaves a taste in the soul, disenchanted and disturbing.

Jeff Bleckner's staging, happily and easily conversational, with scenes more overheard than witnessed, effortlessly matches the fugitive mood of Mr. Shepard's worried and disposable vision. The actors - I liked Tom Rosica best, but all were fine - went about the ir business with a carless Zen-like felicity.

I enjoyed this double bill. I enjoyed the corny jokes, the ridiculous ideas... Would you like it? Try it and see. It certainly isn't "Hamlet".

The Best of Off-off Broadway, Dutton, NY, 1969
The Unseen Hand and Other Plays: Bobbs Merrill, Indianapolis, 1971
New York: Urizen Books, NY, 1981
Applause Theatre Book Publishers, NY, 1981.
Continuum, NY, 1983.
Bantam Books, NY, 1986.
Vintage Books, NY, 1996.
Fifteen One-act Plays, Vintage 2012

Forensic and the Navigators, like Melodrama Play, had more pronounced social overtones than most of Shepard's previous work; a factor also indicative of the broader Genesis influence. It deals in cartoon fashion with a plot to free prisoners from an oppressive regime, which is bungled when the regime's enforcers arrive to exterminate them. These ideas are underdeveloped, but were taken up more effectively in subsequent plays. Soo too are another feature of Forensic which seems to have owed something to The Hawk. The lead characters, Forensic and Emmet, appear on one level to be two sides of the same divided consciousness, a blond cowboy-type and a dark-haired Indian-type (ego and shadow, yin and yang) who discuss "switching sensibilities" so as to disguise themseleves and throw their hunters off their scent. This was Shepard's first, sketchy attempt at exploring the doppelganger theme, a central thread of his work which runs all the way through The Tooth of Crime and True West.  (Source: The Cambridge Companion to Sam Shepard)