title>Search and Destroy, a CurtainUp review
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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Search and Destroy
By Stanley H. Nemeth
The Rude Guerrilla Company continues its tradition of reviving neglected works of merit in its witty new production of Howard Korde's Search and Destroy. The play belongs to the Elmer Rice-David Mamet comic tradition, which looks asquint but with satiric howls at the fine verbal spin though less than fine behavior of that recurring social paragon, the hustling American businessman.
Martin Mirkheim is the hero-villain of the piece. He is a petty Florida entrepreneur, yet, when push comes to shove, an aggressive self-starter who falls under the spell of late 1980's New Age Gurus and their platitudes. Intensely and sincerely shallow, he seeks to "Go For It!" and to "Follow His Bliss" by securing the film rights to a minor TV Guru's self-realization book. Mirkheim's efforts in this line take him from Florida to Dallas, then to Minnesota and New York, and finally to California, and a success that's as sad as it is mordantly amusing. During these travels, the angry but laughing Korder has Mirkheim encounter a wide variety of contemporary social types, many of them united in a deadpan push for self-fulfillment, outrageously and hilariously divorced from any traditional notions of restraint, much less, standards. Besides power, there's only money; no matter the words, even the older distinctions between money and "dirty money" have become to these characters mere sentimentality.
By current standards, the play has a refreshingly large cast. The Rude Guerrilla production meets this challenge by a skillful doubling and tripling of parts. Equally skillful is the director's decision to have the cast members scurry back and forth across a semi-lit stage between scenes, a visual symbol of the empty energy and hustle in the absence of meaning that are the strength and ultimate weakness of Mirkheim and his America. This expressionistic touch is the kind of welcome, imaginative extension of an author's vision found only where directors accord playwrights, and not themselves, the highest respect.
The acting of the entire cast is never less than commendable, though several of the performers deserve special praise. Jay Michael Fraley (Mirkheim) is particularly good at representing alternating nerdiness and savagery. Joseph Hutcheson, as his temporary sidekick Kim, is equally boyish and fully reptilian. Alex Dorman as a landscape contractor and cocaine-dealing middleman is a wonderfully innocent-nasty conman. He extracts all of Korder's humor in one brilliant, Mamet-like scene where he, Mirkheim and Kim close a cocaine-deal. Also inspired in her comic acting is Cecily Smith as the book-writing minor Guru's accommodating secretary. Her account to Mirkheim of her taste in films and of the absurd horror screenplay she's written is mercilessly funny. What happens to her screenplay is even funnier.
All in all, the Rude Guerrilla Company does justice to what is probably Korder's most succesful, least preachy work. Here social criticism and bouyant wit are perfectly balanced. This production should definitely be seen.
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