SOUTHERN GOTHIC NOVEL
nytheatre.com review by Stan Richardson
In a festival rampant with titles
vying to out-sensationalize one another, Southern Gothic Novel
may sound lackluster. But the title Frank Blocker has chosen for his
compelling one-man-show could not be a more apt description of the
enchanting world he creates. The most unusual and delightful aspect of
Blocker’s unusual and delightful 15-character play is his distillation
to its very essence of the Southern Gothic milieu, a genre comparatively
overlooked in the current trend of satirizing this style and that.
Satire, in fact, does not seem to be the prevailing intention here: he
does not make us see the archaic shortcomings, but allows us instead to
fall in love with this melodramatic sensibility. (We are more often
invited to ridicule than we are made to be so affected.)
August 15, 2003
Blocker’s potboiler concerns the kidnapping of Viola Haygood, a histrionic, mysterious, man-crazy young woman in Aberdeen, Mississippi, a town where everyone knows everyone too well yet each citizen manages to maintain a double agency. Among the bizarre bunch are the girl’s sensible and beleaguered mother, Donna Hazler; the owner of Aberdeen’s sole Asian culinary establishment, Mrs. Wong; and a June Bug (not intended as a metaphor).
The plot itself could be more cleverly implausible and Blocker and his director, Gabriel Shanks, could have made the performance more physically dynamic, but those the audience will surely forgive. Southern Gothic Novel should not get lost in the FringeNYC shuffle. Largely due to Blocker’s hilariously vivid characterizations, this is a show I endorse without reservations.
So make reservations.