Monday, January 9, 2017

Review: Porn in the Closet

By Michael Block 

Some people have skeletons in their closet. Others have porn. In Our Dead Friend's Porn by Connor Wright, Nate's porn stash reveal a wealth of secrets that aid in finding closure for three friends following Nate's death three years earlier.
Our Dead Friend's Porn is a boisterous comedy about the bonds of friendship as Lee, Woods, and Gracie must clean out the porn from Nate's room, a request he had on his death bed, prior to his family selling the house. As the porn stash grows, so do the truths about the trio and their fallen friend. Connor Wright has written an engaging script that's equal parts funny and sentimental. The characters instantly mesh with the quick dialogue. The accessibility of the language brings the comedy out in a manner that is authentic. But rather than keep the action passive, Wright introduces a plot device of the flashback. As important as the scenes and exposition is, Nate's entrance somehow let the air out of the momentum. Each character got their moment with Nate but there's a beauty in creating our own Nate in our minds. Certainly the device can remain but further exploration in tightening it can be helpful. Device aside, one of the boldest beats came in the last scene where we watch the Nate and Lee flashback, this time with a twist. Was this scene a do over for Lee or the reality that he didn't tell Gracie and Woods. Leaving it up to interpretation greatly alters the narration. Device aside, Wright ran into one plot hole that affected the inciting incident of the play. We learn that Lee lures Gracie and Woods as a means to discover the truth of Nate's death. We also learn that Nate asked Lee to clean out his porn on his death bed. If he was so concerned about Nate, why not ask him in that moment in the hospital? As minor of a plot hole it is, it is one nevertheless.
The main trio of Alex Curran as Gracie, David Merten as Woods, and Graham Techler as Lee brought the essence of friendship with ease. They picked up on one another wonderfully. The standout of the bunch though was David Merten. Merten brought an offbeat goofiness that was endearing. It was a captivating charm that allowed you to dismiss some of the nasty things Woods spewed. Merten had already stolen your heart. Curran as Gracie gave an earnest performance finding a mellow sturdiness to the girl looking for companionship. Individually, Techler and Griffin Carpenter as Nate created strong characters. Carpenter's Nate, though a bit erratic, was filled with mystery and intrigue. Techler had a firmness. While we know that there is a bit of a wall between the two friends, Carpenter and Techler didn't quite have the chemistry they had with everyone else. Something was missing. Unfortunately, not believing in this friendship deters the overall arc.
Director Joel Kirk made the best of the festival and created a ninety minute world that was full of life. Kirk assisted his company to find the weight within the humor. Wright's story is deep and it's easy to only explore the funny. But that's boring. Kirk dove deep and pulled everything up to the surface. By simply playing with boxes and some furniture, Nate's bedroom was perfectly created. Whether it was staging prior to moving into the space or fear of the architecture, not using the door on stage was a big mistake. Whether it was the entrance into the room or the door to the closet, Kirk needed to use it. Additionally, the blackout that precedes the actual ending caused an audience applause as it could have been a viable ending. With a theatrical vocabulary previously established, Patrick Korkuch could have simply faded Nate away as the lights transitioned to reality avoiding the black out altogether. The final applause never reached the peak it did with the real ending.
Our Dead Friend's Porn is a comedy to keep on your radar. That is if you can get past crude bro humor. Connor Wright has a natural comedic voice that was propelled by a strong vision by director Joel Kirk.

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