*BACKSTAGE WEST /// CRITIC’S PICK
An irreverent tour de force. Highlighting the adult side of edgy poet Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends), performer Alex Marino, under the surgically precise direction of Lonny Stevens, brings to life an amazing array of characters and locales.
In a nutshell, Satan meets his match in the form of lowly Billy Markham, a backwoods hick whose common sense and gambling chutzpah outgun the Prince of Darkness at every turn. Marino is nothing short of phenomenal in his agility and stamina. The personas he inhabits, fully embodied and then discarded with near-schizophrenic abandon, put Sally Fields’ Sybil to shame. In addition to the title characters, Marino imbues God–or is it really?–with a John Wayne swagger, while Billy’s parasitic talent agent, Scuzzo Sleazo, coats the stage with oily double talk. Marino’s meticulous movement intimately dances with a level of technical support rarely seen in a show this fast-paced. Light-board technician Damien Burke and the sniperlike exactitude of follow-spot operator Martha Valentine never miss a beat. Eric Harp, the production’s sound engineer, buttresses Marino’s right-angled segues with hundreds of perfectly timed cues.
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Not for one moment should this piece be mistaken for one of Silverstein’s better-known children’s works. Rating a very strong R, it’s a wickedly raunchy romp best-suited to an audience in want of cerebrally challenging material. Stevens’ directorial pacing and ingenuity is rapid-fire yet never out of control. One moment, he has Marino cavorting the length and breadth of this snug stage like a whirling dervish; in the next, a dramatic pause reveals a series of upstage scenic elements, such as a projection screen or a silver curtain reminiscent of a 1970s variety show. Considering the level of physicality in Marino’s performance, it’s perhaps understandable that this production offers only a single weekly presentation. Given its regrettably fast-approaching closing date, making plans to catch a performance is highly recommended!
Click here Nancy Nayor
Presented by and at CAP Studio (Complete Actors Place), 13752 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. www.completeactorsplace.com.