The Unfryable Meatness of Being
Reviewed by Paul Birchall
Pacific Resident Theatre
Through Sept. 7
Playwright Keith Stevenson’s delightfully quirky comedy is the third installment in a series of plays — a triptych of white trash comedies, each an episode involving the down-market residents of a flophouse motel in backwoods West Virginia. And what delights a Los Angeles audience more than laughing at the great, unwashed yokels and inbreeds who are doofy enough to live in the backwaters of Duck Dynasty country? It’s no wonder that the Fried Meat series has sparked three comedies so far – and we sense that there are more to come, just as long as folks in Venice don’t tire of roast possum, twinkie pie, and Mountain Dew a la chambre.
Each episode of the Fried Meat series can stand on its own terms, and here, director Guillermo Cienfuegos offers a sharply executed, excellent production. Of course, there is some assumed familiarity with the characters – but they are such rural archtypes from the get-go, we get them almost immediately. In this third installment of the series, performers, playwright and director are all comfortable with the characters and their personalities.
The play takes place in the seedy motel room shared by affable West Virginia bumpkin JD (playwright Stevenson) and former yuppie Mitchell (Neil McGowan). Although no summary of the previous episodes is provided, it’s quickly obvious that Mitchell is a downsized fellow who’s had no choice but to board with JD after his career and relationship fell apart. By this episode three, Mitchell appears to have made peace with his new environment and with the unhinged trailer-park types who have become his peers.
Meth-head Marlene (Kendrah McKay) is kicking her narco habit and trying to create a better life for herself, as she interviews for a job at the local sandwich market. Sadly, she has gotten in her own way by earlier sleeping with the guy she’s set to interview with – but Mitchell vows to tutor her in human resources. It looks like an off-beat, unusual romance will blossom between the pair – but then Mitchell’s pregnant former fiancée (Jennifer Pollono) shows up, throwing a wrench into the works. Meanwhile, a pair of spacy cultists (Carole Weyers and Joan Chodorow), who serve vaguely Mephistophelean cult leader Jorgen (Brad Greenquist), arrive at the motel, believing that JD might be the Second Coming of . . . something or other.
Stevenson’s play is really very light stuff, but it’s steadfastly appealing for all that, and the charm of the deftly assayed characterizations and tight, funny dialogue is hard to resist. It is clear that this cast and crew have worked together for a while and are having just as much fun as the audience is, which allows for much amusement – though this is probably not an experience with a dramatic impact that will last much longer than the show itself. Particularly appealing turns are offered by McKay’s strangely vulnerable drug-addict, and by Stevenson’s sweetly dopey backwoods doofus, and by the Weyers and Chodorow’s two cult girls.
Pacific Resident Theater, 707 Venice Blvd, Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4:30, through Sept. 7. (310) 822-8392, pacificresidenttheatre.com