The play may well be the thing, but sometimes “the thing” adds up to considerably more than just the play. Such is the case with needtheater’s World Premiere production of Frank Basloe’s Guided Consideration Of A Lamentable Deed. Though Basloe’s dark comedy is intelligent, entertaining, and thought-provoking enough to stand on its own, when you add a pre-show “kegger” (more about that later), a one-of-a-kind venue, and live music after the show for those who wish to stick around, this brand new play by a relative unknown becomes a “thing” well worth taking a chance on.


Were Guided Consideration Of A Lamentable Deed a screenplay, it might well be promoted with the logline “Graduating college senior has sex with sleeping co-ed, then wonders if it’s rape” (though studio execs would probably ax the current title for one a bit more marquee-friendly). Guided Consideration is most definitely a play, however, and a highly theatrical one at that, the lovely Mattie Hawkinson serving as our titular guide, commenting on the action with such erudition that she might as easily be a young college professor discussing Shakespeare or Keats.

Case in point: “I roost before our imminently graduating hero as he rests post-coitally on the edge of this standard issue dormitory bed,” Hawkinson articulates as she quite deliberately obstructs our view of the genitalia of well-built, naked antihero Tim (Ben Kurland), who before long will have dressed, left the scene of his lamentable deed, and be wondering aloud to tack star Tracy (Rachel Germaine), “I did it with an unconscious girl. Now what should I do?”

Throughout the rest of Act One, we follow Tim on an around-campus search for an answer to this question, the soon-to-be Morgan Stanley Assistant Analyst posing it to security guard Jerome (understudy Mark Anthony Williams), whose late-night chat with curvaceous, scantily clad Lily (Sheila Karls) may be heading towards to sexual consummation; to philosophy major/ex-dormmate Darren (Ian Forester), an expert on things Aristotelian and Socratic ; to stoned Torahic scholars Ariel (Edward Kiniry-Ostro) and Eytan (Terence Leclere), who’ve been debating with barf-prone Phil (Johnny Dinan) whether Noah was sodomized by his son Shem; to whiz kid Warren (Jayk Gallagher), who’s been pondering his post-graduation future with Tracy; to bickering lesbian couple Maggie and Eleanor (Bridgette Campbell and Abigail Eiland); and to buddy Alex (Forester), seated in a restroom stall adjoining Tim’s urinal, whose questions (“Are they G-String? Are the black panties G-String?”) suggest that he may be doing more than standard lavatory business. Act Two introduces a particularly persuasive beggar (Isabelle Ortega) and a French Canadian grad student (Germaine), whose affair with professor Norman (Kiff Scholl) doesn’t sit too well with Norman’s wife Marianne (Ortega). Also making appearances are perky S.F.G.S. (Students For Grad Students) organizers Andre (Jesse Weinberg) and Jen (Aubrey Chantelle), circling the campus in an attempt to persuade graduating seniors to refuse their diplomas at tomorrow’s commencement, a pair of shapely coeds (Chantelle and Karls), who just want to be shot topless à la Girls Gone Wild, and professor Neal (J.B. Waterman), whose own lamentable deed with a ballpoint pen seems to provide Tim with a way out of his dilemma. Oh, and graduation speaker Peter Jennings (Waterman) pops in from time to time to rehearse his commencement address.

Playwright Basloe leaves it up to the audience to provide their own answers as to Tim’s guilt or innocence, and to wonder if his lamentable deed is any worse than those of the campus denizens who surround him, and he does so with sly humor and considerable originality.

Performances are uniformly fine under Dylan Southard’s sharp direction. Hawkinson radiates intelligence and wit as the titular Guide, not only providing running commentary and allowing us to hear the thoughts of many of these characters but also cuing us in to what’s in store for them in the future. The terrific Kurland’s sexy boy-next-door looks and likeability factor make him a particularly savvy choice to play a character who in other hands might not inspire audience sympathy. In smaller roles, Germaine and Ortega each shine in two very different roles, Karls is a spacey delight as Lily, and Chantelle a hoot as the hyper-enthusiastic Jen, ably supported by Weinberg as her cohort in campus activism. Kiniry-Ostro and Leclere are a scene-stealing pair of stoned-out ex-Hebrew school boys, Campbell and Eiland generate sparks as on-the-rocks girlfriends, and recent Scenie-winner Forester creates a dynamic, distinct pair of characters. Understudy Williams did such bang-up work as security guard Jerome that it came as a surprise to learn at curtain calls that it was his first time going on in the role. Dinan, Gallagher, Scholl, and Waterman complete the excellent cast in topnotch fashion.

This entertaining, thought-provoking two hours of highly original theater is made particularly special by several factors unique to this production. Cafe Club Fais Do-Do, a grungy nightspot on West Adams between Fairfax and LaBrea, has been reconfigured as a 99-seat-plan theater with the audience seated where the stage would usually be and Tim’s bedmate’s dorm room situated at the opposite end, far in back of the action but visible throughout the play. Associate producer Chris Covics’ ingenious set design consists of movable furniture and floor-to-ceiling pillars lit from within, which cast members maneuver into various configurations and which Covics lights imaginatively. Mo Stone’s costumes, Corwin Evans’ sound design, and Yuki Izumihara’s property design all score high marks. Mel Stone is production manager, Sarah Brown assistant stage manager, Alex Pierdant assistant stage manager. Matt B. Wells is executive director.

Adding to the evening’s uniqueness is your ticket, a red plastic cup which entitles you to an hour’s worth of free beer. (Note: Comped audience members will need to pay $5 per cup, not excluding reviewers. Also, the length of the “kegger” will depend on how late the house opens.) Following curtain calls, Cafe Club Fais Do-Do returns to its usual configuration, a rock band taking over the stage-turned-seating area, the rest of the soirée offered at no extra charge, with drinks available for purchase at the bar.

Talk about a full evening of diverse entertainment! In more ways than one, Guided Consideration Of A Lamentable Deed enhances and solidifies needtheater’s reputation as one of L.A.’s edgiest and best young companies.

Cafe Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 West Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
September 22, 2011
Photos: Christina Heller

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