Sunday, January 18, 2009

Southern Gothic Novel (Stage Left Studio)

By Molly
• one man show • 17 characters • Southern charm • quirky • like story hour on crack

BOTTOM LINE: A whirlwind, comedic show where an entire story of love, crime and small town antics is told start to finish by one man in 60 minutes.

Southern Gothic Novel is quirky and fun; the two things that make it so are the script and the performance, both aptly done by Frank Blocker. The narrative is written in the southern gothic style, basically Americana below the Mason-Dixon line (think Tennessee Williams and Harper Lee). Blocker's story includes vivid description and background, which is great because one of the characters he plays is the narrator, who, in Blocker's own voice, sets the scene in between dialogue. In terms of the writing, it's a novella he is performing, not typical theatre scenes. He could just as easily sit in a chair and read straight from the book. Except in Southern Gothic Novel Blocker is not sitting and he's certainly not reading, rather he is becoming these characters and performing the tale.

The mere nature of going in and out of 17 characters could be daunting, but luckily Blocker has fine-tune the voices and movement; he glides through the performance with ease, making use of every bit of playing space in the tiny Stage Left Studio Theatre. He has done the show a number of times: at the NY Fringe Festival and Midtown Theatre Festival as well in Columbus, Baltimore and Atlanta. Although I'm not sure how much material has changed since the last incarnation, Blocker appears incredibly comfortable with it all, which is great because the audience then feels totally at ease. I was able to sit back, relax and take in the story, which by the way is written beautifully. It's almost poetic at times. I was impressed with Blocker's descriptions and details that filled out the scenes in my mind.

Without giving too much away, plot-wise, I will tell you that Southern Gothic Novel is a campy mystery that takes place in a small southern town in the present time. The press notes give the following description: "The whole thing started when Viola Haygood, the Assistant Librarian of the Charles B. Evans Memorial Library, fell in love for the umpteenth time. This one was new in town. He was tall. He was dark. He was handsome. And he smelled really good."

This show is most definitely a good time, and I can recommend it for those who enjoy the one-person performance genre. If you're not comfortable with the theatrically artsy (read: you like Broadway musicals but don't usually venture outside Times Square), this will be a huge step in the downtown direction. But if you're curious, don't let me dissuade you. Southern Gothic Novel has been performed multiple times and received a lot of great press. It's an amusing hour of escapism.

(Southern Gothic Novel plays at the Stage Left Studio Theatre, 438 West 37th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, only Wednesday at 8pm through at least March 15. Tickets are $25 and are available by calling 212.868.4444 or at The show runs 60 minutes with no intermission.)


Loraine said...

Traipsing all the way down there from Times Square? Hell, I'd fly across the country to see it, if I could. ;)

Anonymous said...

Interesting post you got here. I'd like to read a bit more about that topic. The only thing this blog needs is some pictures of any gizmos.
John Stepman
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