Friday, June 28, 2013

Stabilized Not Controlled (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Stabilized Not Controlled marks the third show I've been lucky enough to see with the gifted Frank Blocker. He gets special mention because in this one he plays the entire cast of characters--a tour de force he pulled off previously for the same theater, the well-named Visceral Theater Company in Southern Gothic Novel.

Here he seems to do fewer characters, which is almost a pity. Really, the man can do a crowd scene all by himself and yet keep a startling number of people distinct in the audience's minds! No mean feat, and almost mind-bogglingly wonderful to behold.

For Stabilized Not Controlled (which like Southern Gothic Novel he also wrote) Blocker seamlessly shifts from one persona to the next. Male, female, young, old, middle aged, lower class, homeless, middle class and the like. Each vivid, distinct and (most important) compelling. Even his villain Killer Joe--a more-than-a-little ruthless landlord--comes across as not a caricature but a human being. Watching this bigoted thug genuinely try to be "polite" and later actually warm to someone in his own icky way makes for one facet an enthralling show. So too his antagonist Lorna Breedlove, a septuagenarian sex addict in recovery (just as a concept I love this--the actual writing and performance proved a delight).

Part of Blocker's methods, incidentally, is to use fairly broad strokes when it comes to characterization.  All his characters end up with strong gestures, signature physicalities like an extreme posture, a cast of the mouth, or the like. In the hands of a lesser artist, this would work as nothing more than farce. What Blocker brings to all that superlative technique makes us care. That something is and remains humanity.

 As far as the plot goes, we get a glimpse into a long-running war between a landlord and his tenants. The former doesn't like to fix things or spend money if he can help it. Well, no landlord does! He however simply doesn't fix them, does all he can to push tenants out so he can raise rents, seems genuinely amazed the tenants can form their own association without his permission! The tenants themselves make for quite a menagerie of human diversity, including a stoner as well as a gay accountant and an aging actress with her boyfriend (who gains a nickname that is just a little bit of genius all but itself). Although there is indeed a plot--with beginning, middle and clear-cut end--the play really acts as a glimpse into the life of this building's society. We get a sense of others who have lived here and others who shall yet follow. Which proves fascinating as well as moving in the end.

Plus funny. Quite often.  

This play forms part of the 2013 Hollywood Fringe, ending far too soon in my eyes with final performance Saturday June 29, 2013 at The Lex 6760 Lexington Ave, Hollywood, CA at 10:30pm. I can honestly say missing this show would qualify as a tragedy. A minor one, to be sure--not like anyone's life is at stake--but a tragedy all the same. See it and you'll understand what I mean!

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