Down under America

Deep in the Jeeps of Georgia

By Alex Dawson
Directed by Jane Hardy
Bon Bock Productions and the Horse Trade Theater Group
The Red Room
85 E. 4th St. (212/868-4444)
Non-union production (closes June 8)
Review by Adam Cooper

Alex Dawson pulls off a surprisingly entertaining tour de force with his new work, Deep in the Jeeps of Georgia, a portrait of festering inhumanity gone haywire. Beckett-like in structure, this brief but barbarous dramatic piece explores the banal existence of aimless, heartless youths in the Deep South of the 1980s. Paralleling Waiting for Godot, this play focuses on two male outcasts, Jack (Smitty) and Bear (Christopher Robinson), who spend their time waiting, drinking, and talking. However, these two reprobates do achieve communion with their little gods of sex, alcohol, and ultra-violence. Featuring a crazy assortment of characters, an apt amount of demented dialogue, and a subtle and shocking plotline, this short drama succeeds in exposing the ugliness and volatility that lurk in contemporary American hearts.

Steering clear of the pitfalls of stereotypes and derivative storytelling, the production gave vent to two painfully disturbed yet highly believable wackos who hang out, drink excessively, and talk pitifully about screwing, sexual orientation, and body parts. Their nebbish friend Eddie (Roger Nasser) joins their nefarious revelry and serves as a comic and vulnerable supplicant of their sadism.

Hopes that their female companions might provide some sanity or stabilizing force are quickly dashed when Luann (Jennifer Williams) and Hawaii (Sadie Jones) arrive and satisfy their desire for more boozing, more body talk, and more mind-numbing yet unsettling blather. Complementing this crew is the somewhat underdeveloped character of Fred (Sam Ward), a mentally challenged boy-toy who entertains them as the village idiot. Even animals (alive and dead) play a role as a reoccurring motif throughout the play. Eerie sounds of and discussion about dogs, wolves, and deer, along with a set of antlers attached to a lawn chair, underline the fatalistic connection these characters share with such instinctual beasts.

What made this production so snappy and successful was its ability to constantly throw curve balls about what would have otherwise been an unimaginative expose of the seamier side of the Deep South. The rhythmic and quirky text, filled with engaging patter, ribald humor, and evil imagery, was just the right amount to offer a tasty definition of the characters' aberrations without becoming reductive. All of the performances were energizing, nuanced, and restrained, effectively avoiding the temptation to exaggerate the characters' negativities or eccentricities. Jane Hardy's direction keenly heightened the unsettling nature of the material and made inventive use of the tiny black-box theatre space. Finally, the untraditional plot structure, capped off with a shocking and surprisingly abrupt climax, accentuated the oddities and kept the material fresh.

While the invigorating sound and lighting designs (Alex Dawson) were delightfully used to highlight the play's creepiness and humor, more creativity and insight could have gone into both the set and costume designs. Playing into expectations, the set and costumes mostly consisted of a hodge-podge of cheap adornments, military fatigues, and symbols of rebellion. Instead, the design might have searched more for singular and startling imagery, such as the aforementioned antlers, that would have complemented the infectious style of the dramatic action.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 2

Return to Volume Nine, Number thirty-four Index
Return to Volume Nine Index
Return to Home Page

Copyright 2003 Adam Cooper