Sunday, January 31, 2016

PURE SHOCK VALUE, absurd farce confounds at none too fragile

Sean Derry and Alanna Romansky, Co-Artistic Directors of none too fragile have, since its founding in 2010, established the venue as a major theater in the Akron-Cleveland area.   Dedicated to being an “adventurously-bold theatrical voice,” they choose “modern and relevant” scripts, that are “thought-provoking, heart-touching, and, at time, principle-challenging, character-drive stories.”   In other words, as they state on their blog-site, their goal is to do “Award winning Kick-a** Theatre!”

Having been awarded numerous recognitions by the Cleveland Critics Circle and Times Theatre Tributes, none too fragile has lived up to its goals.

Their latest production, PURE SHOCK VALUE, an absurdist farce, will challenge its audiences.  Filled with blunt language, ranting and raving verbal attacks, and numerous references to present and past Hollywood directors, performers and films, Matt Pelfrey’s script begs for clarity of meaning. 

What does the black comedic rant say?  In the true sense of theatre of the absurd, the author probes for what is the purpose of existence, what is living life all about, and what does it mean to exist.   Whether he succeeds in inciting the observer to either ask themselves the questions, or come to conclusions, is questionable.

The story concerns three “film makers,”  in actuality, Tex, a 29-year old man-child, Ethan, a 35-year old deliveryman, and Gabby, a Portuguese-American Kinko’s manager.  All of them live in the delusional world of their talents and abilities of being/becoming filmmakers.  Self-absorbed, they scheme, plan and plot to gain recognition for their fart-infested film, “Barking Spider.”

Their “epic” has been produced, thanks to $10,000 given to Gabby upon the death of her grandmother.  The trio has been unsuccessful in getting any major Hollywood film company to distribute the film.  They’ve tried, oh yes, they’ve tried about every contrived means possible to get the film “out there” so their “talents” can be appreciated.

Gabby has given oral sex to a young man who is affiliated with a film company, thinking he was going to be their entry ticket to the big time.  Unfortunately, they failed to vet their “perp,” who actually was a high school student doing an internship, with the end result of Gabby having expended her efforts with no result other than having committed statutory rape on a minor.

Tex, a fount of severe attitudes and self-worth, rants and raves about the success of “lesser” talents such as Angelina Jolie, Kevin Costner and Steven Spielberg.  He does not want to become part of the “99% who crash against the rocks.”

Ethan is a fairly laid-back, sexually driven African American who is in love with Gabby and easily manipulated by Tex.

Due to a bizarre incident, into their lives comes Julian Quintana director of the “well known” cult film, “Where the Rats Go To Die.”  He is found in their backyard doghouse, incoherent and non-communicative.  Eventually they get him alert enough to watch their film.  The results?  A scathing evaluation which sets off a series of events that bring the play to a shattering conclusion.

The none too fragile production, under the directorship of Sean Derry, is at times compelling, but also repelling and disturbing.  As is the case with much farce, the performances are over-the-top. 

Benjamin Gregorio is like the Eveready Bunny on speed. His Tex is a lesson in psychotic, self-absorbed behavior.  He rants, raves, runs around attacking things and people, both verbally and physically.  If he makes it through the run without losing his voice, it will be miraculous.

Alanna Romansky develops in Gabby a needy woman who seems to be carried along by Tex and Ethan’s enthusiasm for producing a film, but not really part of the process.  She does a nice job of retaining her accent throughout.  She has two soliloquies that get us into her soul, that are extremely well done.

Brian Kenneth Armour nicely develops Ethan, a fairly laid back guy who realizes that his life is on a track to no-where, and has little real understanding of how to find the right path.

Robert Branch is outstanding as Julian.  As required, he spends much of his time on stage realistically twitching and moaning.
Capsule judgement:  Though the production values are fairly high PURE SHOCK VALUE is an absurdist script that will confound many, offend some due to the language and sexual actions, and please others due to its gutsy ”in your face telling it like it is.” 

For tickets to PURE SHOCK VALUE, which runs Thursdays through Sundays until February 13, 2016, call 330-671-4563 or go to

none too fragile’s next show is Daniel Pearle’s A KID LIKE JAKE from March 11-26, a study of the harrowing process by which well-heeled New Yorkers scheme and scramble to win their children admission into prestigious schools.