Sunday, August 21, 2016

Review: Sex, Drugs, and Southern Grit

By Michael Block

Breaking out from stereotypical social constraints isn't always as easy as it seems. Such is the case for the characters in Britton Buttrill's Scratching. Trying to escape their desolate life, Christian and Brianna are on the way out of their hometown before the past catches up to them, drawing them right back into a life they've looking to run away from. Scratching is a play of cliché vices for the down-and-out. From pushing drugs to a life of stripping, in a sense, their ending is foreseeable. Yet Buttrill tries to conceive an innovative story that gets wrapped up in grit and language. The underdog-type story never quite takes off once the downward spiral begins. And that’s what sets Scratching back. Finding a way to, as they say, flip the script, will make Buttrill’s story worthwhile to tell. It’s a millennial tale with a timeless sensibility. And that’s interesting. But with the characters written as they are, there’s nothing unique about it.
The characters were based in stereotypes so the quartet brought out as much dimensionality as they could. And, at times, it worked. Tyler Gardella had an easy swagger to his character Adrian. But when the character retreated to the dark side, Gardella’s performance turned on a dime. And yet it felt uncharacteristic for Adrian. At least what we knew. The allure melted away to something villainous and unsavory. As the guy looking for an out, Karsten Otto’s Christian had a sense of trepidation that lacked intrigue and color. Andi Morrow was lucky to play Buttrill’s strongest character. As Brianna, Morrow had a great sense of resolve from start to finish. The character of Tracy is essentially the friend that was never really ever invited to the party. Though Alexandria Collins had great strength, the character seemed to just upset the overall arc of the play.
Scratching is an incredibly intimate play that happened to be performed on an unfortunately overbearing stage. Director Miles Mandwelle handled the task well, trying to find flexibility in his staging using just four chairs. He did run into some staging faux pas when it came to the duet scene. With the awkwardness of waiting for the other pair to finish saying lines, there were moments where Mandewelle had actors upstaging one another, creating some irregular stage pictures.
Scratching is a dark, Southern-fried drama. It’s not a play about hope. It’s a play about trying to change your path even when the path is not fordable. It may not seem tangible, but with some reworking, Scratching, unlike its characters, can find a new life.