An Impending Rupture of the Belly
We all know - in light of the Virginia Tech shootings, we know it all too well - that violent acts can happen anywhere, at any time. Of course, we don't like to dwell on thoughts like that. If we did, we'd never leave the house. It's much like living with the fear of earthquakes. Sure, we know that there's a chance that, while we're careening down the freeway at 65 miles per hour, the road in front of us might instantly drop away. But we generally just ignore that possibility and get on with our lives. Otherwise, we'd let the fear overtake us.
Matt Pelfrey's world-premiere dark comedy, An Impending Rupture of the Belly, is the story of a man who lets the fear overtake him. Clay - the name surely is intentional, since the man allows himself to be molded by those around him - is at a turning point in his life. His wife Terri is pregnant with their first child, and he's trying to prepare for the baby. But, prodded by a friend who pontificates that we're one terrorist attack or natural disaster away from shooting each other over a loaf of Wonder Bread, Clay starts to really consider what it means to protect his family.
Terri wants none of it, and jokes with Clay that he can't save them from post-apocalyptic terrors if he can't even get the neighbor to stop his dog from crapping on their lawn. Clay, determined to prove himself a worthy husband and father, confronts the neighbor. Doug, an overgrown schoolyard bully who doesn't realize that Clay's entire identity is wrapped up in the issue, tells Clay to go jump.
And from that moment, An Impending Rupture of the Belly is unstoppable. You know it won't end well, that much is certain. But how bad it's going to get, and who is going to pay the price for Clay's determination not to feel powerless - these are the issues that keep you on edge for the duration of the play's single act.
Eric Pargac gives a memorable turn as the protagonist. While we see Clay fall apart at the seams and commit reprehensible acts, he still keeps Clay's desperately good intentions front and center. We never hate Clay; and the play only works because we can still see something of ourselves in him. Troy Metcalf is solid as Doug, the neighbor who refuses to curb his dog because he's sure Clay won't do anything about it. Also noteworthy is Shawn Lee as Clay's brother, a homeless drifter and wannabe rock star whom Clay won't even allow in his upper-middle-class house. (Or, as the props so eloquently display, he's the Pabst Blue Ribbon to Clay's Gordon Biersch.) And they're all under the expertly taut direction of Dámaso Rodriguez, who - aided by Christie Wright's evocative lighting design, Cricket S. Myers's effective sound design, and the cringe-inducing fight choreography of Brian Danner - never lets the tension drop.
The production is inches from perfection. Pelfrey's script contains a few lines that don't read true; and some of the set changes run a little long in the darkness of this black box theatre. But whether viewed as a study of a small dispute between two individuals gone horribly wrong, or as an allegory for events on a more global scale, An Impending Rupture of the Belly is a powerful piece, forcing you to look at things you'd rather not look at - and maybe even see them in a different way. And that's damn good theatre.
An Impending Rupture of the Belly continues in the Carrie Hamilton Theatre at the Pasadena Playhouse through June 9, 2007. For reservations and information, see www.furioustheatre.org.
Furious Theatre Company presents An Impending Rupture of the Belly by Matt Pelfrey. Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez. Production Stage Manager Nick Cernoch; Stage Manager Katie Davies; Scenic Design Dan Jenkins; Lighting Design Christie Wright; Costume Design Christy M. Hauptman; Sound Design Cricket S. Myers; Technical Director Seth Chandler; Assistant Director Shawn Lee; Fight Choreographer Brian Danner; Hair and Makeup Design Christa McCarthy; Graphic Design Eric Pargac; Production Manager Vonessa Martin, Publicist David Elzer/DEMAND PR; Head Electrician Dan Healey; Program Design John Hennessy; Running Crew Tanya Mounsey, Chris Blake.
Photo: Anthony Masters