There are plenty of ways to create a play -- in a rush, spending months or years on it, doing revisions after readings or workshops -- but playwright James Carrey came up with a fresh idea for Unleashed, his first full-length script for the new Crash Box Theatre Company.
Carrey asked his Facebook friends to send him random lines of dialogue; at first, he was calling the thing he was planning to write If This Play Sucks, Blame Facebook. Carrey took the lines and wove them into Unleashed, a comedy about two pals who spend an unsettling, bloody weekend at a lake house. The original title is probably too harsh for the result, but Unleashed is flabby enough that it's unlikely to spawn a wave of Facebook-inspired plays.
Running at Fort Lauderdale's Empire Stage through the end of the month, Unleashed is a silly, unwieldy but sometimes funny play about guys who have the sneaking suspicion that they're not alone. Maybe it's the sporadic growling they hear. Maybe it's the blood dripping from the ceiling. Maybe it's the thumps coming from the basement, thumps too loud to be caused by the rats who have moved in. Ewwww.
Homeowner Alain Pique (Carrey) and his soon-to-be-divorced bud Kaspar Blomqvist (Casey Casperson) are up to no good anyway. Alain has an assignment to write a magazine piece about sexual power and perversion, so he's had the bright idea of ordering in a prostitute and interviewing her, with Kaspar reaping the recreational benefits. Alain's uptight wife Gerri (Nori Tecosky) has conveniently gone away for the weekend, so the coast is clear -- except for all that thumping and growling.
Shelly (Tecosky again, this time in a blonde wig), a hot girl in hotter pants, soon arrives. But she's not alone: Bryan (Shawn Burgess), a guy who appears to be her pimp, comes along to keep an eye on things. Several plot twists follow, including the arrival and swift departure of a Jehovah's Witness (Clay Cartland), and the spirit-cleansing presence of Nilson del Rey (Cartland again), a medium with a shady past.
Carrey, who wrote, directed and produced the show, also designed its sound, lighting and costumes. And he composed its goosebump-raising music. His acting as Alain is low-key, almost exhausted, which is understandable. Casperson, on the other hand, goes way over the top as Kaspar. He's a veteran of improv and stand-up comedy gigs, and he brings that style to the character, randomly yelling lines and giving a performance that's way too big for the room.
Cartland, Tecosky and Burgess, on the other hand, humanize even the most outlandish aspects of their characters. Burgess makes Bryan a sly guy with a plan, while Tecosky's Shelly is deadpan funny as she offers to work her "magic" on Kaspar. Cartland makes Nilson a flamboyant, charismatic character who would be right at home in a spoof of a 1940s film noir potboiler. He, above all others, supplies the comedy gold in Unleashed.
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