Los Angeles Theater Review: OUT THERE ON FRIED MEAT RIDGE RD. (Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice)

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by Jason Rohrer on May 15, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles

RIGHT UP HALF-BAKED ALLEY

Keith Stevenson’s writing in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd. unsteadily walks a line between high and low comedy, veering more often toward sit-comism.  More skit than play, this quasi-story tells of a redneck saint who uses doe urine for cologne (Mr Stevenson) and the bottom-feeders he attempts to redeem in a rural West Virginia motel, including a meth-smoking fine artist (Kendrah McKay), her New Jersey hooligan poet boyfriend (Jason Huber), and their new neighbor, a chronically sweaty spork quality-control supervisor (Neil McGowan).  If these characters interacted this way as a spontaneous exercise in your improv class, you’d feel that something special had happened.  You might think it was good enough to stage.  But to someone not already in love with it, or who hadn’t smoked a joint right before the show, Fried Meat sustains interest more by its outre choices than for sound dramatic construction.  The conceit – that there’s more to backwoods denizens than meets the eye – is not remarkable for its freshness or, in this treatment, for its consistency of vision.  But if you don’t expect much it may be funny enough to warrant the price of a ticket.

Jason Rohrer’s Los Angeles Review of Fried Meat Ridge at PRTWhen it’s good, it’s very good, but that’s about five times in its sixty-odd minutes – and really, an hour’s a problem in itself.  It’s just not enough time to introduce this many unlikely characters, set up this many implausible scenarios, and have them perform any meaningful function.  Worse, the comedy’s too willing to sacrifice its integrity for a cheap laugh to deserve respectful consideration:  some of the characters are complicated and dissonant, but their dissonance isn’t in service of anything.  They’re not people, they’re jokes with no punchline.  And they’re joined by another hick (Michael Prichard) so far from complex as to be a plain-and-simple bigot, just as amusing and interesting as the ones you meet in real life.  Some of the jokes involve cleverly dizzying turns of fate, like the great moment when Mr McGowan prays for deliverance and finds and loses it all in less time than it takes to read of it.  But a depressing number of the gags are of the “I’m not afraid of you!” – a gun is aimed at him – “Now I’m afraid” variety; and the extremely contrived ending winds up the foregone conclusions, but leaves the theme and the point as open questions.

Jason Rohrer’s Los Angeles Review of Fried Meat Ridge at PRTAs directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos, who’s done such excellent work next door on Concealing Judy Holliday, this show is well-performed and interesting to look at.  But it drags when it needs to fly: this kind of hit-and-miss material must move faster than the audience’s ability to get ahead of it.  Fried Meat could have been a couple of minutes shorter and several laughs funnier, but without a considerable rewrite to give these characters something to do, it still wouldn’t be memorable.

photos by Alex Fernandez

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd.
Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice (Los Angeles Theater)
scheduled to end on May 27, 2012 EXTENDED Through October 6, 2012
for tickets, visit http://www.PacificResidentTheatre.com

{ 3 comments }

steve June 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm

I disagree with this review. This play is REALLY funny and witty and a GREAT night out. Ask the packed house (on both occasions I saw the show) if they could laugh much harder.

Doris August 26, 2012 at 3:21 pm

We totally agree with this review. Sorry we didn’t read it BEFORE going and we would have saved ourselves the price of the tickets, gas, etc.; the wasted time.

Marty September 4, 2012 at 1:00 am

I see a lot of theater, and this is one of the best shows I’ve seen recently. This show made me laugh out loud, but also care about the quirky yet endearing characters. I liken Mr. Rohrer’s complaints about the implausible scenarios to complaining that Picasso’s women look different in person. Fried Meat Ridge Road presents a surrealistic slice of life, but one that still manages to ring true. This show has been extended through October, and I strongly recommend it.

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