Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd became a hit comedy with a cult following after premiering in 2012 at the Pacific Resident Theatre, Los Angeles and could very possibility achieve the same status in London in 2017. Many people will return for a second look at the lovable JD and the zany and surprising world in which he lives.
Very strange name for a street. Better than the next one over- Butthole Street!
That quote and the tile of Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd are indicative of the nature of this play: It’s going to be a walk into a weird and random world. Written by Keith Stevenson, it became a hit comedy with a cult following after premiering in 2012 at the Pacific Resident Theatre, Los Angeles.
Director Harry Burton saw the show in the LA premier season and presents Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd hoping that ‘it’s inspiring message of love, peace and goodwill to all lobsters…can play a small part in renewing our collective faith.’ Burton has gathered his eager cast, creatives and crew from near and far and moulded their talents to produce a slick, wild and zany one act play.
The play is set in West Virginia in the home of JD. His home is a motel room with twin beds. It’s a mess. Mitch arrives to inspect the property with a view to entering a flat share arrangement and is nonplussed to find that the ‘flat’ is a motel room. He suffers from sweaty hands and extreme anxiety.
Flip, the owner of the motel visits and demands that JD attend to his duties as general handyman leaving Mitch to fend for himself with the ornery Flip. A second visitor, crack smoking Marlene, is distraught from dealings with her partner Tommy. Tommy later appears to borrow JD’s car in order to date another Marlene.
What follows is a mixture of mayhem, farce and morality play with surprising moments of truth and humanity poking through the comedy in strange and wonderful ways. It would be wrong to reveal more of the plot as it’s the sort of play that is best appreciated initially without too much foreknowledge of content. Of course subsequent viewings would be enriched by knowing what’s about to happen.
In the lead role of JD is writer, Keith Stevenson. He emanates an aura of gentleness and altruism that shouldn’t be mistaken as a sign of imbecility. Stevenson plays the role with warmth and sincerity and such simplicity that his energy is missed whenever he leaves the stage. His authenticity is such that one can almost believe the fantastic.
Robert Maloney plays Mitch, the anxious man with the sweaty hands. His character is the antithesis of JD and the two actors work well in a finely timed and tuned portrayal of their relationship.
Flip is played with energy by veteran English actor Michael Wade. Flip appears to be all business but shows with the lift of an eyebrow and quirky smile that there are hidden depths, especially in his relationship with firecracker Marlene. Melanie Gray flings herself about alarmingly and fires her lines around with a fabulous American twang.
The final member of this tight knit ensemble cast is Dan Hildebrand. Hildebrand has performed extensively in England and has lived and worked in the US for the last 25 years. He is compelling to watch from the moment he bursts on to the scene until his surprising final scene. Hildebrand manages to deliver a very plausible performance of this unbelievable character.
All this is played on a small but intricately defined set designed by Simon Scullion. The setting is realistically cramped and cluttered and conveys both physicality and ambience.
Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd is hilarious in it’s randomness but enriched with a depth of compassion. Burton has achieved his directorial objective and the audience leaves smiling and much less stressed than before. Curiously the program notes reveal that there actually is a Fried Meat Ridge Rd in West Virginia.