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Theater review: 'No Good Deed' by Furious Theatre Company

January 25, 2012 | 11:00 am

It would be nice to cover this next bit of space with "POW"s and "ZOWIE"s. That would be a fitting fists-of-fury illustration for the tale of a playwright and a small but scrappy troupe attempting to fuse the mediums of theater and graphic novel into innovative social commentary.

For Matt Pelfrey and Furious Theatre Company, that superhero finish will have to wait for another day, however.

"No Good Deed" is an origin story about ordinary men transformed into superheroes. One character resembles Richard Jewell, the security guard who found a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics, only to be dragged through the muck. So it seems that Pelfry intends, at least in part, to comment about a world so out of whack that it longs for heroes but once it has them, jealously tears them down.

John Iacovelli provides a bleak junkyard of a set, suggesting society's sorry state; Ben Matsuya supplies visceral graphic-novel illustrations, projected in tandem with the action; and across it all, Dan Weingarten splashes comic-book-intense light.

Like their graphic-novel brethren, these heroes must resort to violence, but Pelfrey ("An Impending Rupture of the Belly") pushes them to such extremes that we begin to wonder whether they possess any redemptive qualities whatsoever. Why must their powers be fueled by illicit drugs? Why, in a fit of despair, do they devolve into an Anti-Justice League? And how much of this is real and how much just in the mind of a bullied kid?

Director Dámaso Rodriguez and his actors -- led by Nick Cernoch, Shawn Lee and Troy Metcalf -- face a gargantuan task and as of opening night didn't have matters in hand. Except in the dangerous-looking battles, the performers were hesitant playactors, not bold forces of nature.

But, hey, not even superheroes always get it right on the first try.

More theater reviews from the Los Angeles Times

Pasadena Playhouse's Need to Generate Money Ends Furious Theatre's Run as Its Resident Company

-- Daryl H. Miller

"No Good Deed," Furious Theatre Company at [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; some variations. Ends Feb. 26. $25. (323) 461-3673 or Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

Photo: The everyday men turned superheroes of "No Good Deed" are portrayed by, from left, Shawn Lee, Nick Cernoch and Troy Metcalf. Credit: Anthony Masters Photography