Monday, January 30, 2012

No Good Deed by Matt Pelfrey

By Joe Straw

Furious Theatre Company presents No Good Deed by Matt Pelfrey and directed by Damaso Rodriguez, is having its world premiere at Inside the Ford in Hollywood through February 4th, 2012.

The press release suggests that this gritty play is “part theater and part graphic novel”.  I thought this was a fantastic idea. A smaller, west-coast version of Spiderman with graphics and battles of good against evil seemed promising.  On paper, this looks great, in reality; I’ll let theatergoers decide for themselves.

The Furious Theatre Company has issued a #1 Hellbound Heroes comic by Matt Pelfrey and Ben Matsuya that is graphically just fantastic.

And in this medium, one can turn a dead person into a superhero if they fit these criteria.

First, an ordinary person dramatically saves a life.  Second, he gets notoriety. Third he dies a horrible death.  These are the prerequisites for becoming a Hellbound Hero.   Mysteriously, they are brought back to life by an evil figure who breathes super-hero life into them.

The play opens with a conglomerate of media personnel reporting on the death of Josh Jaxon (Nick Cernoch) who earlier had bravely saved a girl from certain death by a vagrant (Dana Kelly, Jr.). We travel back in time to find out the backstory.

Josh Jaxon (Nick Cernoch) is a very creative graphic artist who is harangued by his friend Bandon (Danny Lacy) into drawing bigger boobs on the women of the artwork for his pure bedroom enjoyment.  Brandon is paying good money to have the boobs just right. There are some creative differences but Josh complies. 

Both are infatuated with Danielle (Katie Marie Davies), a pretty schoolmate.  She discards Brandon and takes a liking to Josh. 

And just as Josh thinks love and happiness are around the corner, he is accosted by two football players Drew (David C. Hernandez) and Kyle (Adam Critchlow) and beaten senseless.   They push his face into the toilet.  

But coming to his rescue is Hellbound Hero (Robert Pescovits) who takes on the football players, ripping the heart out of Guy and frying Drew’s eyeballs out of his sockets. Behind the players are graphic representations of the action being performed on stage. It is fun.

Josh’s situation at home is much dire.  His poverty stricken stepfather, Ron (Robert Percovitz), sits on the couch all day long with a bad back while his mother, Linda (Johanna McKay), is the breadwinner of the family.  Ron accuses Josh of stealing his pain medication, which Josh denies.  Linda loves her son but wants them all to get along.

Josh gets out of the house to be with Brandon to partake in a little decadence, Brandon choose a cheap wine as his drug of choice but Josh inhales a dangerous aerosol.  In the distance, Josh hears a cry for help and runs to find Danielle threatened by a vagrant with a knife.  When Josh orders him to back off, the knife-wielding assailant comes after him.  After a fight, Josh bashes the vagrant’s skull in until he is just a stain in the alleyway.

When the Media Vultures find out about his heroic deed, Josh is invited onto every talk show in town. One of those shows is the Poppy Show (Johanna McKay).  She introduces three guests.  A fireman (Shawn Lee) who is responsible for pulling a baby out of a well.  A security guard (Troy Metcalf) who is the man responsible for saving a lot of people by discovering an explosive device in a theme park. And Josh who has saved the young girl’s life.

“If it wasn’t for you, that girl would have been dead or much, much, worse.” – Talk Show Host  

With all the money he makes appearing on Letterman (Robert Pescovitz) and Leno (Brian Danner), Josh buys his mother a car.  It is something his stepfather doesn’t like and they get into a tussle. Josh leaves the house and tries to stay with his friend.  But Brandon lives in a nice home with two loving parents and he doesn’t want to get involved.

That’s when the roof starts caving in on our heroes.  The media attention is overwhelming, the press discredits them, and people start questioning their motives. The Security Guard commits suicide.

There are a lot of good things to be said about Damaso Rodriguez’s direction and Matt Pelfrey’s play.  There is a sincere message about how the media builds and worships heroes and then tears them down. 

Judicious editing would make the play more focused. The director might concentrate into turning his ideas into something more concrete. For instance, Hellbound Hero mysteriously appears and disappears without giving the audience a clue as to his actions and his reason for being.  

Drop the second news-reporting segment.  We’ve seen it once and we don’t need to see it again. Also, make the first one graphically intriguing and understandable.  To have them speaking all at the same time is confusing for the audience.

The graphic illustrations by Ben Matsuya are incredible.  

Nick Cernoch as Josh Jaxon does some nice things.  This is a physically demanding role in which Cernoch get beaten up quite a bit.  It’s not clear if the super hero stuff worked since I don’t know what his super power was all about.

Shawn Lee as the Fireman also had some nice things.  I like the idea that his axe was his instrument of his superpower.  Thor has a hammer, Lee’s got an axe.  Okay, I’ll buy that.

Troy Metcalf as Danny Diamond and Security Guard did a nice job. Again I’m not sure what his super power was about.

Katie Marie Davies as Danielle was effective.  It’s unclear what she was doing out late at night, in an alleyway, on a bed, under the knife of a vagrant.

Robert Perscovitz had a variety of rolls. One of them was Letterman which was nice but went on too long.  He played Ron, Josh’s stepfather and was pretty sinister in a comic book way.

Johanna McKay has a strong voice and was pleasing as both Linda, Josh’s mom, and the talk show host.  She was delightful in both roles.

Dana Kelly, Jr. has a very nice voice and played a number of characters, Media Vulture 2, Pruitt, Lawyer, Vagrant and Senator. He had a lot of costume changes and he is in all sense of the word a trouper.

Danny Lacy as Brandon has a good look about him.  He was very effective as Josh’s friend.  His emotional commitment and his backstory were very effective.

Stefanie Demetriades as Media Vulture 1 was a typical broadcaster.  They are the reasons I don’t watch television anymore.   Still, she did a fine job.

Adam Critchlow plays Kyle and has a nice fight scene with Josh.

David C. Hernandez plays Drew and was also involved in the fight.

Brian Danner played the Media Vulture 3, Leno, Krank, Paul, Guy, and was the Fight Choreography.  The fight scenes were very well done.

All Thursday performances are Pay-What-You-Can and at those prices I suggest you run down and get your tickets. And bring a adult friend who loves comic books!

Parking is free!

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