by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

A fairy-tale suspense thriller in the Southern Gothic novel tradition.

There’s a sex slave scandal going on in Aberdeen Mississippi and Viola Haygood, the town’s “crazy as a June-bug” assistant librarian, is about to land smack in the middle of it. Falling in love for the umpteenth time with a tall, dark and handsome stranger, new to town, has its downside. When someone begins kidnapping Aberdeen’s young women, the finger-pointing commences, starting with Big Otis, a tough-talking black woman with a very big secret.

Conceived, written and performed by New York stage veteran Frank Blocker (Stabilized Not Controlled; Suite Atlanta; Eula Mae’s Beauty, Bait & Tackle),  Southern Gothic Novel: The Aberdeen, Mississippi Sex-Slave Incident earned a New York Drama Desk nomination for Best Solo Show and it is just plain easy to see why.

Playing 17 distinct “characters” who speak rapid-fire drawl (an oxymoron one would think!) Blocker pantomimes and weaves an exciting melodrama in what would otherwise be humdrum smalltown Aberdeen life. The result is a vivid, playful, articulate and wildly colorful showcase as he opens his favorite novel for a storybook reading and almost dreamily pulls us into the present day – just another day in the life of Miss Viola getting accidentally knocked down and knocked out by the man of her dreams.

Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction unique to American literature that takes place exclusively in the American South employing the use of macabre, ironic events to examine the values of the American South. Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or disorienting characters, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or coming from poverty, alienation, racism, crime, and violence. (i.e. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe, The Glass Menagerie, The Rose Tattoo, and A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.) It is unlike its parent genre in that it uses these tools not solely for the sake of suspense, but to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the American South, with the Gothic elements taking place in a magic realist context rather than a strictly fantastical one. (1)

2013 Drama Desk NomineeBlocker’s storytelling skills are impeccable as he touches upon every single element in the Southern Gothic genre which makes this play so aptly named. Directed by Cheryl King for The Visceral Company at The Underground, Hollywood, each moment is as incredibly rich with humor as it is with destitution and delinquincy creating a most imaginative yet very real setting.  You can almost feel, taste and smell the actions of each scene brought to life on mostly a black box stage with bare set dressing.  And yet, nothing more is needed to enhance Mr. Blocker’s incredible talent for keeping his audience captivated and on the edge of their seats.

We route for everyone, bad and good, in this story, especially of course for the absolutely non-sensical, indecisive, fool-headed, Viola who does get her Prince in the end.  What a treat!

Exceptionally well written and performed. Southern Gothic Novel surpasses expectation.

January 18 – March 30, 2013

(1) Gothic Fiction: Referenced from Wikipedia