Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: A Bad BBQ

 As they say, kids will be kids. But at some point kids should grow up and become real adults. Unfortunately the adults in this play are still stuck in the past, not wanting to grow up. The Bad Guys, Alena Smith’s overstuffed and very static play, is a coming of age story for characters who are too old to come of age. Filmmaker Noah is ready to go off to see his “based on a true story” film in Los Angeles, but before he can go, he’s coincidently forced to deal with the pending aftermath of what could happen if the people involved in the incident the movie is based on, discover they’ve been movified. It’s a reunion story of sorts where the past comes back with little explanation. Noah, who’s randomly asked one of his actors, Paul, to drive him to the airport, is reunited with his drug dealing hick neighbor, Jesse, his stepbrother Frink, and, in a completely unnecessary plot diversion, his former college buddy turned army boy, Whit.  Jam-packed in ninety minutes, the story seems to unfold as a story about boys trying to let go of the past but once Whit walks through the gate, the story goes in a completely different direction. As Noah says, “I don’t know what he’s doing here.” Even outsider Paul, our way into the story, has moments of confusion as to why stuff is happening. If one of your characters is confused, it’s likely your audience will be too. But that could have been the fault of his, and most of the other character’s, constant state of inebriation.
It’s hard to say if the acting was off or if the five guys did their best at making the dialogue they were given actable, but Alena Smith’s bro-talk seemed quite forced, making for some cringe worthy line readings. Continuity also seemed to bog down the story. We learn that our characters, with perhaps the exception of Paul, are in their thirties, but through some discussion of the past, their age seemed to jump all over the place. Through these exchanges, many of the character’s credibility came into question. The older they seemed to grow, the more contrived the story seemed to get. James McMenamin’s Noah had a seemingly true objective: get to the airport. Of course he couldn’t accomplish his objective because that’s the main action for his character. But McManamin’s Noah just didn’t seem to try too hard or care too much. His character was quite bland and one-dimensional. Fink, Noah’s stepbrother via both their mothers getting hitched, was the character you instantly hated. He had some embarrassing moments and “please be quiet” lines. It was very difficult to care for Michael Braun’s Fink, especially when he lost “everything” in the end. Braun seemed to turn Fink into a caricature. Roe Hartrampf as Whit looked the part of the Iraq-vet but had some painful preachy lines that made us wish he never showed up. After learning why he arrived, the payoff was quite cheap. His character was really only there to be a foil for Tobias Segal’s Jesse to banter about the war. Segal sold his redneck character as an outsider, angry at life. His character did have some good lines, though not quite plausible. And why his character was wearing a “Free Lil’ Kim” sleeveless shirt is beyond me. The only actor to have some color was Raviv Ullman’s Paul. At times he played the stereotypical gay, but Paul was the only character you wanted to root for. Ullman was the highlight of the ensemble.
Jason Simms did a nice job creating a back porch where all the action is set. The tight space was key for some of the necessary close interactions. Jessica Pabst’s costumes were questionable. Why Jesse was wearing the shirt he was wearing was the big head-scratcher. Coming in close behind him was Noah’s outfit. Sure, he may be humble, but he’s on his way to the debut of his movie. Wouldn’t he wear something a little classier than a t-shirt over a long sleeve shirt?
The Bad Guys was one bad mess. Unnatural dialogue and questionable acting makes this show a big miss.