By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
At work, however, Clay is subjected to the Rush-and-Bush chauvinism of a colleague, Eugene (Doug Newell), who predicts an impending apocalypse of riot, earthquake and ruin. This armchair Rambo persuades Clay to view his home as a kind of fortified Green Zone surrounded by hostile forces — it’s not enough that Clay be the king of his castle, he must also be his suburban jungle’s lord of the flies. “There are hairline fractures everywhere,” Clay warns, parroting Eugene’s opinion of American society.
Egged on by Eugene, Clay eventually confronts lout and dog with his 9-iron. With one swing, he sends his own world spinning irrevocably out of control. While not as mature a work as David Mamet’s Edmond, Pelfrey’s story similarly exploits the notion of an over-civilized Homo lexus who momentarily summons primitive energy to strike back at perceived tormentors. The twist here is that Clay’s perceptions are unerringly false and that, at a few critical junctures, Terri is just unsupportive enough to send Clay kicking off in dangerous directions.
What makes Belly a worthy entry into the Falling Down genre is that Clay is not so thoroughly pathetic as his decisions may indicate. There’s no question that he’s being bullied, and in such a way that he would seem weak to call the police or a lawyer in to deal with his neighbor. Nor are his fears of spending time in jail or losing his class security unfounded — he has only to look at Ray to remember what happens to people who stumble in life and take too long getting back up. Finally, his main motive — to protect Terri and her unborn child — is unimpeachable. In the end, it’s how much Clay allows his fear of outsiders to inflect his actions that makes him such a sad character — and a lesson for the rest of us.
Director Dámaso Rodriguez tautly directs a cast that is completely in tune with Pelfrey’s unsparing vision. (Lee is deliciously over the top as the crack-smoking Ray, who sees himself as a kind of graceful predator prowling the asphalt savanna of Skid Row.) Scenic designer Dan Jenkins’ waffle-board cutouts of city buildings, Cricket Myers’ thunderous sound design and Christie Wright’s ominous lighting all combine to create a diorama of dread.
“It felt like I was a part of something bigger,” Clay marvels as he describes his fateful golf swing and the pain it unleashed. The truly creepy thing is that Pelfrey doesn’t suggest whether Clay is outside society or if the rest of us will have to catch up to Clay — which may be the highest tribute yet to mad chic.
DISTRACTED | By LISA LOOMER | At the MARK TAPER FORUM, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown | Through April 29 | (213) 628-2772
AN IMPENDING RUPTURE OF THE BELLY | By MATT PELFREY | At Furious Theatre Company at PASADENA PLAYHOUSE’S CARRIE HAMILTON THEATRE, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena | Through May 12 | (626) 356-PLAY