Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: Laughs in Last Chance

We have all been in that position of desperation. That instance of knowing you will do anything to get out of that desperate circumstance. And that’s exactly where the characters in This One Time in Last Chance are. Man will do anything to win his wife and daughter back. Simon will do anything to get the ten grand he lost back. Dude will do anything to get his prized Pomeranian back. And in a clever turn of events, Leroy will do anything will let his son live. This One Time in Last Chance is a classic buddy tale that screams Judd Apatow flick. Man and Dude (don’t worry, a smartly placed joke is used toward the end of the play about their real names) rent a motel room in Last Chance, Colorado, in order to score a drug deal. Dude calls upon his friend Man to help him with the deal. Unfortunately, Ma didn’t know what he was getting himself into. Upon entry in the room, Man discovers the thing that will make their deal a bust: a dead body. As the play progresses, nothing goes right for our pals. A frantic man continues to knock on their door searching for his dog Roosevelt. The dead man haunts by simply “decaying” in a chair (kudos to Marcus Denard Johnson for sitting lifeless for a good forty or so minutes). And that’s just the beginning. The action continues to escalate for the worst, leading to some top-notch comedy from Joshua Everett Johnson and Rob Bradford as Man and Dude respectively. They possessed the requirements of being successful yings to yangs for their characters. Like I said earlier, the script could make a fun Apatow flick, allowing Seth Rogan and James Franco to easily be plugged into the roles. Despite being able to be considered derivative of an Apatow film, Sam Gooley’s script is pleasurable. It was funny when it needed to be funny and sentimental when it called for it.
I was engaged in the plot, wanting to know how these fools were going to get out of their tight situation. Thankfully, the play was left with a cliffhanger. We never truly find out if things end up getting tied up nicely in the end, though the stage picture says quite a lot! (see it and you’ll understand the poor joke…). The only thing that seemed to take me out of the play was Chester’s monologue. While it served for a funny freeze in the action, it just wasn’t necessary and didn’t further the plot. We already knew the speech he was selling. Though funny, I could have done without it. The plot as a whole was derivative but contained some funny twists. The plot twists helped to make the script fresh. It’s always great to get a plot point that is mentioned and addressed later without beating us over the head. Though some seem to come from left field they’re used at the right moment (like the very funny and well timed and executed erection gag). Gooley seems to have a knack for creating an enjoyable dark comedy.
In the Fringe Festival, sometimes you get the opportunity to have brilliant spaces that work wonders for your piece. Other times you don’t. Unfortunately, Teatro LATEA is a tad of a detriment to work in, especially during the summer with the A/C blairing and the sun still out. Knowing the brilliant work they always do, Ben Pilat’s lights and Julia Noulin-Merat’s set helped to transform the dire space. The space is not your typical theater, and knowing the limited magic that can happen, especially with an abundance of drab masking, I was able to imagine the run down motel room we were in. The playing space was far too big for this intimate piece. Grabbing on to Punchdrunk and The Amoralists lead, This Once Time in Last Chance would be an exciting site specific experience. Laura Breza’s direction was quite fine. Despite some moments of exceptionally slow pacing, she helped to raise the stakes when it was called for.
This One Time in Last Chance is definitely one of those pieces that you wish was on Netflix instant watch. It’s a cure for a good laugh with fine acting and fun writing.