Sunday, January 18, 2009

On-Stage: Hollow Log

It is strange to look on stage and see a set that resembles my apartment—my college apartment, that is. Unfortunately, Denny the aging slacker has not developed in any sense since his undergraduate years. While perfectly content to sponge off his best friend Annie’s inheritance, Denny finds his unproductive existence threatened in Lawrence Dial’s slacker thriller Hollow Log, which opened at the Times Square Arts Center this weekend.

The rat’s nest created in Peter Kay’s picture-perfect set is actually Denny’s corner of Annie apartment. One can see why she is ready for him to leave. With the encouragement of her fiancé, Annie gave Denny two months notice (61 days to be exact), to find a new living arrangement, during which time, he has done nothing except smoke her secret stash. Exasperated, she offers him an ad-hoc plan. An evidence bag of Ecstasy, disguised to look like Smarties, has come into her possession and she has arranged a buyer. All Denny has to do is close the sale and he will be financially self-sufficient. However, Denny is reluctant to go through with it, suspecting the whole thing is an elaborate practical joke.

Indeed, a devious set-up is underway. In Act II, Denny’s sluggish, drug-clouded brain must figure out who is framing who, as he finds himself on the receiving end of rough interrogations from Ray, the uptight fiancé, and the suspiciously Russian police detective, Boris Chekhov, who so carelessly lost the drugs in the first place.

Log is a perfect little thriller for the post-Rent New York, where being a bohemian squatter just isn’t so cute anymore. Dial’s play perfectly captures the trendy East Village milieu, and maintains some sense of mystery as to where it is all going. His dialogue has a cutting edge and his references to the City pass the New Yorker’s credibility test.

Joachim Boyle certainly has the right presence as Denny, the chronic underachiever. Erin Roberts is particularly noteworthy as the long-suffering best-friend. Never coming across as either helpless victim or heartless evictor, her frustrations and reactions are perfectly human and understandable. In fact, the entire four person ensemble is well cast and quite professional. (On the night I attended Log, they were briefly interrupted by a sick audience member, but once that was attended to, were impressively able to snap back into character in a matter of seconds.)

Cleverly directed by Kel Haney, Log is a very well paced, somewhat comedic thriller. A detail might get glossed here and there (like just what the original criminal plan was before Denny started complicating everything, is never fully explained), but overall, Dial’s writing is sharp as a tack. With simulated drug use (actually a lot of it, Denny is a serious stoner) and some intense on-stage violence, Log is definitely for adults, but it is a smart, engaging play. Playing Thursdays through Sundays, its limited run ends February 8th.