The Tooth of Crime begins with Hoss, a Star Marker, singing a rock song, “The Way Things Are.” Images of self-doubt, numbing deadness, betrayal, and the loss of heroes are introduced in the song as “dark, heavy lurking Rock and Roll” reinforces the ominous threat of graphic violence which looms constantly throughout the play. Hoss’s song introduces his troubled quest and establishes his hope of becoming firmly established at the peak of the American mythos of stardom. “Sometimes in the blackest night I can see a little light,” he sings. “That’s the only thing that keeps me rockin’—keeps me rockin’.”
His groupie, Becky Lou, enters and discusses their preparations for Hoss’s next move in the cross-country “game” that he and other “killers” are playing. Although this game is never fully explained, it appears to be a futuristic combination of the rock and roll music industry and gang warfare. The array of guns she displays and the talk of fast cars attest the thirst for power and speed felt so strongly by the killers. They are all maneuvering for strategic moves which will propel them into the top position of the game, providing them with the tenuous status of a star. Hoss summons his astrologist, Star-Man, who, like Tiresias in Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, is asked for advice to rid Hoss of his malaise. Star-Man offers him some sage advice, but Hoss can barely contain his desire for the number-one position and the gold record that comes with it. Hoss wants to go against the rules of the game, but Star-Man cautions him that doing so will risk voiding his play. As Becky Lou reminds him, “You can’t go against the code, Hoss.” Star-Man elaborates on this risk as he cautions Hoss to restrain his desire and maintain his status as a solo player or risk losing his chance for achieving “something durable, something lasting.” He says, “How’re you gonna cop an immortal shot if you give up soloing and go into a gang war. They’ll rip you up in a night. Sure you’ll have a few moments of global glow, maybe even an interplanetary flash. But it won’t last, Hoss, it won’t last.”
Becky Lou attempts to assuage Hoss’s doubts once Star-Man leaves, but it is clear while they discuss his position as a “true genius killer” that he is sensing a significant challenge to this position. His next song, “Cold Killer,” reaffirms his belief in his ability to attain the rank of top killer as he launches into a rock-patter which displays his expertise in the game.
Hoss’s confidence is weakened when his disc jockey, Galactic Jack, enters and assesses Hoss’s position in the game. Solo players have taken over and “Gang war is takin’ a back seat,” he says, which would be good news for Hoss except that another player, Mojo Root Force, has overstepped the boundaries of acceptable play and taken one of Hoss’s duly appointed properties. The concept of Gypsy...
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