January 21, 2005
Harsh, dude—that's how Adam Rapp's long one-act "Finer Noble Gases" feels. In its L.A. premiere at Sacred Fools in director Aaron Francis' well-realized production, it's a play that gets a light buzz going with the slacker comedy of two stoned couch potatoes, Staples (Ed Goodman) and Chase (Scott Thewes), musing aimlessly about robots, aliens and drugs, then despairing over the casual destruction of their TV by a mildly unhinged roommate, Lynch (Joe Jordan).
With the perfectly foggy logic of the chemically stupefied, Staples and Chase—who also ostensibly play in a band whose name they can't quite remember—decide to pinch the television of a meek neighbor (Brandon Clark), whose eagerness for connection is first touching, then a little scary.
This all plays out with flawlessly modulated deadpan on a set, by Matt Scarpino and director Francis, that spares no disgusting detail in its convincing bachelor-pad scumminess. A wired Thewes and the geeky Clark are particularly fine in their first scene of cross-purposed neighborly small talk, on which pivots the play's sharp turn from light stoner comedy to something darker.
It's a buzz-kill without a punch line or a point, though. Rock 'n' roll theater, like good rock 'n' roll, should be short, fierce and unaccountable. But Rapp, like other playwrights in this genre—Eric Bogosian, Bridget Carpenter—feels the need to reach for significance, pathos, metaphor. With lives as bleak and messy as these, though, we don't need the extra coda to catch the tune.
"Finer Noble Gases," Sacred Fools Theatre, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays, 10 p.m. Fridays through Saturdays. Ends Feb. 19. $15. (310) 281-8337 or www.sacredfools.org. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.