Entertainment » Theatre

Blood and Thunder

by Leon Acord .
Friday Jan 29, 2010
Candice Afia, Keith Arthur Bolden and Tony Williams in "Blood and Thunder."
Candice Afia, Keith Arthur Bolden and Tony Williams in "Blood and Thunder."  (Source:Jay Lawton)

West Hollywood, California (January 26, 2010) - Hurricane Katrina is proving to be fertile ground for Los Angeles theatre this season.

Mere months after the excellent "How Katrina Plays" presented its multi-character study of New Orleans under assault, the equally successful "Blood and Thunder" (wonderfully written by Terence Anthony) effectively uses the Ninth Ward's devastation as a terrifying backdrop for its story of a war waging between brothers.

"I ain't gonna miss this," swears con artist Marcus (Keith Arthur Bolden) to himself, as he sits alone, surrounded by emergency stockpiles of food, his emergency generator, and booze, in his filthy second-floor Ninth Ward apartment, determined to ride out Katrina.

But as the play opens, the levees have broken, and Marcus is only inches above the rising deluge.

Into this flimsy fortress bursts Marcus' convict brother Quentin (Tony Williams). Quentin has escaped his flooded prison, but not without first getting shot in the leg.

He's managed to swim to Marcus' place for shelter from the storm - but he's not going to find it there. Marcus wastes no time pulling a rifle on Quentin, determined to make his brother pay for a past scam gone wrong that cost the life of Marcus' girlfriend and their partner-in-crime Charlie (a very talented Candice Afia).

Amidst the chaos and carnage of Katrina, he knows he can kill Quentin and get away with it.

Marcus brutalizes Quentin, hoping to scare a confession out of his brother before he takes his life. But as the back-story unfolds, via flashbacks, we learn Charlie was a better scam artist than we believed.

In present time, as the water continues to rise and snakes begin appearing in the toilet, as the rain and wind grow louder and helicopters search overhead, the cat-and-mouse struggle between brothers becomes increasingly tense and brutal, then ultimately violent - in a terrifyingly realistic fight scene choreographed by Caleb Terray.

The performances of Bolden, Williams and Afia are across-the-board excellent and award-worthy. Bolden and Williams are very effective as brothers; you can sense a history between them, even as they fight each other for survival. Afia is charming, and makes you understand why both brothers could fall for her machinations.

Director Sara Wagner finds unusual ways to convey the ever-increasing tension and danger, and utilizes the small space at Moving Arts to best advantage.

The audience automatically feels a bit "too intimate" with the realistic action on stage, as they are only inches from the actors. As the brothers struggle against each other, fight, and eventually draw blood, we feel almost uncomfortably close, as if we were actually present.

Another effective way of establishing tension early is Wagner's use of actual news reports, in lieu of music, during pre-show. These archival recordings chronologically detail Katrina's growth in strength and fury.

The increasing urgency in the newscasters' voices is an unexpectedly clever and effective way of setting the scene, and getting the audience on the edge of their seats before the action has even began.

Effects by sound designer Jason Duplissea are excellent: you not only hear but "feel" the wind and rain pounding against the walls and ceiling, the water seeping into the balcony; the howling of a dog drowning "downstairs" is particularly harrowing.

Lighting and scenic designer Jorge I. Velasquez made the most of a limited light plot (although he accomplishes a very chilling final tableau at play's end). His slightly impressionistic set, with huge cracks down the dingy walls and warped French doors, is very effective.

You can almost smell the mildew, the booze and neglect.

While perhaps not for the claustrophobic or squeamish, the show is highly recommended to serious theatergoers who love good, intense, well-acted dramas.

Blood And Thunder runs through February 28, 2010 at Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake.6-3259.

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