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The Beverly Block
Presented by Theatre Anywhere

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Reviewed: 2009-07-17 11:10:00
By: Leila Marston (primordialmuse@gmail.com)

This is the story of that apartment you wish you could forget: the one with debris and beer bottles everywhere, where nobody ever has money, where one guy is glued to a video game controller, another dude comes over to "borrow" things all the time, and people wander in and out at all hours of the night.  It's messy, chaotic, and claustrophobic, but never dull.

I give high marks to the playwright for constructing a thoroughly entertaining, frighteningly true-to-life story; the work is gritty and engaging, and if it seems a little long, it's because certain parts of the play had me squirming in my seat, wanting to smack some of the characters and yell, "No!  Bad idea!"

This feeling of intense involvement in the story comes from a set that made me feel as though I were looking in on the apartment from another room, but more so from the strong performances of the entire cast, both individually and as an ensemble.  The central couple of the play skillfully portray a relationship filled with tension and antagonism, with some surprisingly tender moments.  I especially enjoyed the performances of Claire Friesen, who showed alternating listlessness, anger, and sadness in her situation without once descending into maudlin whining, and Jeff Wahl, who played a perfect specimen of That Guy: the one who inspires a grudging liking, despite the fact that he's fairly moronic and is always mooching stuff.

The ending is taut and ambiguous, the seeming "resolution" of the story worrisome for the characters' future.  The Beverly Block leaves the viewer questioning where the fault or solution lies on a societal level, and also aptly shows that not every conflict is a learning experience or a path to higher growth for the individuals involved.  It's a complex, interesting offering to this year's Fringe, and one well worth the time to see.

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