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Theatre Review (LA): No Good Deed by Matt Pelfrey at Inside The Ford

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The always-adventurous Furious Theatre Company has come up with the most technically challenging project in their history, a graphic novel theatricalized for the stage. Not long ago the company lost their relationship with the Pasadena Playhouse and the Carrie Hamilton Theatre when the Playhouse went bankrupt. Rather than be defeated, the company decided to leap forward with the most ambitious project in their history.

Playwright–in-residence Matt Pelfrey has concocted a wild story, No Good Deed, based on the model of a graphic novel. The form wasn’t exactly new to the company, which has been known for forward-leaning, pop theatre. But this was bigger than anything they had done before. The show is directed by Damaso Roderiguez and features graphic illustrations by Ben Matsuya. The challenge was to design the appropriate set, invent some special effects, and bring the acting company up to speed. While this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think, on the whole, they have succeeded magnificently.

The story explores the way junk news and media hype thwart the best efforts of real-life heroes. Using the example of Richard Jewell, the security guard falsely accused of the bombings in Atlanta during the Summer Olympics when, in fact, he had saved lives, Pelfrey adds two more stories to his brew. We find the fireman who has saved a toddler from a well, and a young lonely guy, Josh Jaxon, who saves a rape victim. In all these cases their heroism leads to overexposure, troubled relationships, and eventual ridicule or worse. Pelfrey imagines that the heroic act miraculously turns the heroes into super beings with the ability to go back in time and change their heroic act. While the story is expansive, the performance is based in emotional realism and gives the audience a visceral, emotional, and darkly comic experience.

John Iacovelli has created a marvelous set for this to evolve in, with creative lighting by Dan Weingarten, video projections by Jason Thompson, sound and composition by Doug Newell, costumes by Christy Hauptman, and great fight choreography by Brian Danner. Sharon Lee is the firefighter, Troy Metcalf is the Richard Jewell character, and Nick Cernoch does a terrific job as the lonely teen.

No Good Deed will play at Inside the Ford through Feb 26.

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