Sometimes, a play just works on every level. Writing, directing, acting, costumes, lighting and sound all working in perfect harmony to present the audience with something they will remember for all the right reasons. A case in point is Keith Stevenson’s Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd at the White Bear Theatre which is just spot on from start to finish.
On Fried Meat Ridge Road (incidentally, a real road in West Virginia) is a run down sort of motel owned by a grizzled old-timer called Flip (Michael Wade) who is happy to call a spade a spade and for whom political correctness is something that happened to other people. Still, he runs a pretty tight motel, especially with the help of hillbilly handyman J.D. (Keith Stevenson). J.D. is a friendly soul and has recently advertised for a roommate to join him and partake of his speciality food, tuna sandwiches and a Lee Marvin (vodka and Mountain Dew). The timing is perfect for down at luck Mitch (Robert Moloney) who had not had a good time recently and is looking for somewhere to live that will widen his social circle. Whether he really wants to widen that circle to include trailer trash couple Tommy (Dan Hilderbrand) and Marlene (Melanie Gray) who don’t exactly discuss their personal issues behind closed doors, is another question but if he manages to survive a ‘normal’ evening at J.D.’s then maybe this really is the place for Mitch to plant himself and get his life back in order.
So, if you read the first paragraph, then you’ve probably guessed that this is going to be a pretty positive review and the reason for that is that I think Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd is one of the best one-act plays I have seen in many a long night. The strange thing is, it really shouldn’t be this good. A racist old man, a hero that really doesn’t appear too bright and a couple who make the average Jerry Springer guest look like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge should not work well together but they really do. It’s not often that over the course of a roughly one hour run, you really get to know all the characters and appreciate both their good and bad sides but in Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd that is exactly what happens. Not to say that the writing is predictably full of stereotypes.
Without giving anything away, I promise you that this is not predictable writing at all. The plot is peppered full of shocks and surprises throughout and the cast – a superb ensemble assembled by Director Harry Burton – really throw themselves into the production. I don’t think I will ever be able to listen to The Jackson’s ‘Can You Feel It’ in the same way again. The strange thing was, about a minute before the play ended, I suddenly twigged what it had been about, then thinking about it, I realised where the clue as to the ending had been dropped during the performance and how much I had been drawn into the story that I missed everything. Part of that drawing in was the very believable run-down motel set that Production Designer Simon Scullion has put together along with the costumes which had a wonderfully authentic air of West Virginia trailer park about them.
All told then Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd was, for me, a thoroughly brilliant show. Extremely good writing brought to life by a highly talented international cast. It kept me warm and entertained. For an hour I forgot Trump, Brexit and the weather as I spent an exciting and enlightening evening with Flip, J.D. and their friends and left the theatre safe in the knowledge that no lobsters had been harmed in the making of this production so all was right with the world.
Review by Terry Eastham
My car got burned up. I left it parked outside the softball field right before the Girls’ Reform School won the regionals. They torched it and rolled it down the hill. Then they used it to light their cigarettes the rest of the night.
– Well, it’s nice they won.
Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd. is an exhilarating comedy with a heart of gold, written by Keith Stevenson and directed by Harry Burton.
Mitchell answers an ad for a roommate and finds himself in a backwoods West Virginia motel with JD, an affable hillbilly of mysterious origins. Soon JD’s neighbours – curmudgeonly Flip, meth-head Marlene, and her hot-headed beau, Tommy – have all but taken over the tiny room. Mitchell finds himself in a hopeless predicament. Hopeless – but for the power of dance…?
17th January – 4th February 2017
Tuesday – Saturday 7:30pm, Sunday 4pm
Running time: 65 mins no interval