Sprung: A Love Story

The “sprung” in writer-director Tony Marsiglia’s off-kilter, comic Grand Guignol carries multiple connotations for his antihero chemist, Samuel Nathanson (Marsiglia in a compelling performance). There is the sense of obsessive infatuation, although in the 49-year-old Nathanson’s case, it is not for his 20-year-old, pregnant girlfriend, Tracy (co-writer Donna Kane), but for the MDMA and methamphetamine crystals he cooks up and deals from his living room lab. That he also loves to ingest the particularly potent creations he calls “red doxies” leads to the second sense — the spaced-out, psychotropic paranoia produced by his ecstasy-eating diet. Finally there is the haywire clockwork sense of his tightly wound existence coming unsprung before our very eyes. As the wild-eyed Nathanson painfully rehearses for the important job interview he is clearly in no shape to make, a succession of skeevy ravers (Jeremy Gladen and Lucas Salazar), psychotic tweakers (a charismatic Tom Wiilde and scene-stealing Amelia Gotham), malevolent cops (Gladen and Jim Eshom) and even a vindictive third wife (Denise Devlin) collide in his seedy apartment and derail his belated attempts to get his runaway train of a life back on track. Marsiglia, a direct-to-DVD horror auteur, successfully transfers his black, surrealist humor to the stage, racking up laughs, an impressive body count and a surprisingly authentic portrayal of the retreat into solipsistic self-destruction that awaits substance abusers of any stripe. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through August 1. (818) 202-4120. A Theatre Slanty production.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: July 17. Continues through Aug. 1, 2009