Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: The Rabbit Hole of Addiction

By Michael Block

Addiction. She's a bitch. In Hollis James' grungy Kyle, a man falls down the rabbit hole of addiction as he's seduced by the devil on his shoulder, convincing him to continue the cocaine train. Produced by Hot Tramp Productions, Kyle is an indie punk dark comedy that dares to go to the edge of a personal crisis.
Jack is in a relationship with Crystal. After going to a concert, Crystal suggests calling her dealer for some cocaine. What she doesn't realize is this late night fun fest is going to turn Jack into a Pringles can because once you pop the fun don't stop. As Jack spirals out of control, losing grip on his relationship, work, and money, he's haunted by Kyle, the problem personified. With a heavy theme and colorful characters, Kyle teeters on tone. Hollis James has written something that is real. But rather than approach it like after school special, he implements a dark, foreboding spell. In comparison to other works of art, Kyle plays like American Idiot's St. Jimmy, only Kyle's sense of humor is not nearly as twisted. While the device may not be novel, it's the way James incorporates him, making him a more influential element. His script is quite colloquial, with a natural flow. It features a multitude of snapshot scenes that may feel more like a film. Kyle is an inherently dangerous but it feels light. Balancing the tone is important for discovering the message. Jack's journey through addiction is personal but accessible yet the stakes, at times, felt minimal. Amping up the stakes, breaking down Jack's world further, will keep the intensity for change prevalent.
photo by Jody Christopherson
Simplicity and storytelling were at the forefront of Emily Owens’ direction. With an intimate couch and a few surfaces to play off of, Owens kept the action realistic. The staging smartly lacked being superfluous. Music played an influential role in this play. Even when not incorporated into the scenes, its presence was felt through transitions. James, who played sound designer as well, occasionally capped scenes off with musical references, creating prime opportunity for their inclusion. A mood was felt, at times, but the sound design could certainly have made it more in your face. With the amount of coke lines needed to tell this story, covering up the theater magic later in the narrative could have been beneficial.
Taking on Jack, Nat Cassidy and his wide eyes went on a difficult journey. Battling his inner demons, Cassidy found the comedy of the dark battle between addiction and depression without making light of the situation, though his characterization was occasionally larger than life. As the titular character, Hollis James took on a suave and captivating demeanor that enticed Jack to the dark side. As we learn the reason for the personification, it makes his presence strikingly terrifying. Playing the array of dealers, Christian Polanco was comic gold, especially as the late play every Chad. Polanco has the ability to turn on a dime when it comes to variance in character. As the woman pulling Jack to change, Tricia Alexandro as Crystal and Christine Renne Miller as Reggie made the most of their characters. They teetered on after school special but still made an impact on Jack's journey.
It's hard to tell a new story about addiction but in our climate, Kyle is an important play to produce. Hollis James has planted some brilliant seeds to succeed that will blossom into something substantial over time.