Entertainment :: Theatre

No Good Deed

by Obed Medina
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Thursday Jan 26, 2012
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Nick Cernoch in "No Good Deed."
Nick Cernoch in "No Good Deed."  (Source: Anthony Masters)

The melding of different genres to tell a story on stage is a tricky art that can either transcend a theatergoer’s experience or leave one scratching the head as he or she rushes out of the theatre.

For a production company, such power should be wielded gingerly. The question, no matter what other considerations are involved remains: Does it help the play? More importantly: is it necessary?

Ultimately, success or failure wholly depends on the strength of the script. Furious Theatre Company’s production of Matt Pelfrey’s "No Good Deed" is promising. Its ambitious goal, by blending conventional playwriting with the graphic novel format, is to create a hybrid that showcases the best of both worlds. The results leave much to be desired.

"No Good Deed" focuses on a teenager, Josh Jaxon (Nick Cernoch), who is swept up in media frenzy when he rescues a young woman from a vicious attack. He is deemed a hero along with a security guard Danny Diamond (Troy Metcalf), and a fireman Bryant Feld (Shawn Lee). Things quickly turn sour when the media scrutiny gets to be more than any of them can bear. Jaxon, a budding graphic novelist, turns to his alter ego Hellbound Hero to help him cope with the school bullies who tease him over his newfound celebrity.

Blending together clichéd elements from your standard high school drama of nerds, bullies, and teenage angst along with a quotidian tale of family dysfunction, the play is a black comedy with little humor and an overabundance of emoting. The all-too-familiar set-ups make up the bulk of the play.

It’s not to say that in the context of the superimposed graphic novel, melodrama and deliberate cliché don’t have their place - quite the opposite -- but it becomes a matter of how such elements are deployed, and in this case, they too often miss the mark.

When such scenes do work, they give off a shining, concise glimpse of what this play could deliver: chilling commentary on the media and the power they have over every day good Samaritans. Such scenes include the talk show segment that introduces the three heroes and the David Letterman Top 10 List scene that suggests the pressure these heroes endure at the hands of the cruel media.

The rest of the script, however, leaves more unanswered questions than answers. Part of the problem is that the characters are unlikable. It doesn’t help that the second act goes off on a tangent by suggesting it is illicit drug use that fuels these heroes’ super powers. It’s not that we, as an audience cannot sympathize with anti-heroes such as these, but as presented in this incarnation, this muddled, unfocused play is too self-consciously trying to get somewhere rather than letting things simply happen via the dramatic arc.

Performances through February 26 at [Inside] the Ford. For tickets and information, please visit fordtheatres.org or call 323-461-3673.

Obed Medina is a playwright & theatre director in Los Angeles.

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