“No good deed goes unpunished,” or so Richard Jewell discovered when the mass media, having previously heralded his heroism at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, turned viciously against him, dragging the security guard through the mud without a shred of proof—or even evidence, all because he “fit” an FBI criminal profile.

Playwright Matt Pelfrey takes Jewell’s case, along with that of a high school student who went from life saver to murderer, adds to them a third media hero-turned-villain, strings the trio together with the bullied high schooler’s fantasy life as a superhero, adds some of the most spectacular visual effects you will ever see in a 99-seat-plan theater along with fight choreography so realistic it will leave you gasping, and comes up with NOgoodDEED, the latest offering of the always edgy Furious Theatre Company—back after a too long hiatus with one of its most exciting productions to date.

Though it veers too ambiguously into the realm of (possibly drug induced) fantasy in its second act, under Dámaso Rodriguez’s electric direction, NOgoodDEED is as cinematically thrilling a piece of live theater as you’re likely to experience this or any year.

NOgoodDEED opens with a trio of news reporters announcing almost gleefully the death of Josh Jackson (Nick Cernoch), a mere twelve months after the plucky teenager had saved his dreamgirl Danielle (Katie Marie Davies) from near rape/murder by bludgeoning her attempted rapist/killer to death, thereby becoming a media darling—and suffering the nasty repercussions of their short-lived adulation.

Flashbacks to a year earlier reveal the bullying that teen manga artist Josh endured at the hands of Neanderthal classmates as well as the life he fantasized about as “Hellbound Hero,” but was incapable of leading in reality. Danielle’s heroic rescue not only gets Josh more sexual action than he could ever have imagined, it guarantees him one talk show appearance after another.

Before long, however, media backlash strikes, as it does to Richard Jewell stand-in Danny Diamond (Troy Metcalf) and firefighter Bryant Field (Shawn Lee), once hailed a hero for a daring “Baby Jessica”-style rescue.

The next thing you know, Josh has morphed into none other than Hellbound Hero himself, on a mission to rewrite history with Danny and Bryant as his Superhero sidekicks—or is this merely the result of the shitload of drugs the threesome have been inhaling, snorting, or injecting?

I’m still not sure what NOgoodDEED’s second act is all about, but with so much nonstop action and visual pyrotechnics onstage at [INSIDE] the Ford, this reviewer for one is not complaining.

Cernoch, Lee, Metcalf, and Davies all do terrific work in extremely demanding roles, as do supporting players Johanna McCay and Robert Pescovitz (as Josh’s co-dependently abusive mother and step-father) and Dana Kelly, Jr., Danny Lacy, Stefanie Demetriades, Adam Critchlow, David C. Hernandez, and Brian Danner in assorted featured roles. McCay and Demetriades are particularly droll as a smug talk show host and slick “media vulture,” and Pescovitz and Danner nail their cameos as Leno and Letterman to hilarious perfection.

NOgoodDEED’s extraordinary fight sequences have been precision choreographed by Danner, the most electrifying of which has Cernoch and Lee attacking each other with metal bar and axe, the very real clang of metal against metal leading one to wonder how they do it without knocking each other senseless. Scenie-winning Projection Designer Of The Year Jason H. Thompson once again proves himself the King Of Projection Design with a razzle-dazzle potpourri of live action and animated effects, manga artist extraordinaire Ben Matsuya supplying the production’s colorful array of original graphic illustrations.

Additional design elements (John Iacovelli’s impressively industrial scenic design, Dan Weingarten’s dazzling lighting, Christy Hauptman’s imaginative costumes, Shannon Dedman’s ingenious props, and Doug Newell’s sensurround-esque sound design and pulsating original music) stretch the limits of so-called “intimate” theater.

Kudos go too to production manager Susan K. Coulter, stage manager Christie Wright Gilmore, and assistant stage manager William Lidderdale. Rigger Kyle Weisshar and electricians Evan Drane, Megan Hong, and Casey Kimble deserve mention as well in a production as tech-dependent as this one.

Critics may carp about Pelfrey’s script, which does get more than a bit far-out in Act Two and doesn’t develop its characters with any particular depth. Still, it more than serves its purpose as a vehicle for the adventure ride that is NOgoodDEED at [INSIDE] the Ford. To paraphrase the Immortal Bard, in NOgoodDEED, “the production’s the thing,” and quite a spectacular production it is.

[Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
January 26, 2012
Photos: Anthony Masters Photography

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