Nevada Rep presents a thrilling, funny take on sex, violence, media and responsibility
Responsibility. What a simple concept. If a man commits an act of murder, that man must be held responsible. Right?
Not anymore. In America today, if a man commits an act of murder—or even a dozen—the responsibility for the crime could lie with anyone, from his parents to his shrink. And as Hollywood director Oliver Stone learned, even the film industry can be held responsible for our violent society.
British comedian Ben Elton wrote the novel Popcorn after Stone was accused of inspiring a French couple’s killing spree with the release of Natural Born Killers. While Elton has openly criticized Stone and other directors he feels glamorize violence, he maintains that artists must be able to create what they please. This struggle between artistic freedom and social responsibility is the heart of Popcorn, adapted for the stage and performed by the Nevada Repertory Company.
In Popcorn, Bruce Delamitri has just won an Academy Award for his movie Ordinary Americans. A couple calling themselves the “Mall Murderers” has been mirroring the plot of his movie, and the media is trying to pin the blame on Bruce. The media’s work is made easier when the Mall Murderers show up at Bruce’s mansion and try to force him to take responsibility for their actions on live TV.
While the dialogue is sometimes trite in that Tarantino-esque, “look how clever I am” way, Popcorn is scathingly funny and often thrilling. (Parents: Do NOT bring the kiddies.) Nevada Rep takes on this challenging material with energy and intensity that works from start to finish.
Debby Reiser as Scout, one half of the Mall Murderers, is simply phenomenal. She borrows a lot from Juliette Lewis’ performances in Natural Born Killers and Kalifornia, with the Southern drawl and innocent naivety. But unlike Lewis, she comes off as a genuinely sympathetic character. In NBK, you have no doubt that Lewis’ character is a bad seed, whereas you sometimes wonder if Scout is simply a product of a screwed-up society.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the point.
Not that she’s a sweetheart, by any means. Reiser plays both the ingénue and the evil bitch equally well, especially when playing off Nicole Luchetti’s supermodel Brooke Daniels—nothing like a little girl talk to bring out the psycho killer in all of us. She looks every bit the part, too, with her stringy blonde hair and her navel-baring top.
Gary L. Metzker also does a great job as the other killer, Wayne. He also has the NBK style down pat, mimicking Woody Harrelson’s condescending, over-sexed, ultra-violent character quite well. Bradford D. Ka’ai’ai is convincing as the self-absorbed director Bruce, who wavers in his loyalties: Is his artistic integrity more important than the life of Brooke, or even that of his own daughter? You’ll see.
Brian Barney, Amanda Ward and Kris Wallek all turn in solid performances as Bruce’s producer, daughter and estranged wife, respectively.
David Seibert’s set design must have cost a pretty penny, with its polished marble floor, ornate glass tables and plushy high-end furniture, but it couldn’t be a better set for a Hollywood living room. Virginia Vogel gets another hit for her costume design, and Michael Fernbach’s sound and lighting are the icing on this delicious cake.
Or should I say the butter on this Popcorn?