“The Dead Guy” by Eric Coble (HFF18)

By Ernest Kearney —  A small town unemployed knuckle-dragging ne’er-do-well (Adam Ferguson) is approached by a producer of reality TV (Te’juana Johnson) with an offer.  The producer will pay Ferguson one million dollars; he will have one week to spend the sum however he likes, while the producer and her cameraman (Jeremiah Ripley) follow along filming him.

At the end of seven days, the mouth-breather will be required to die, the method of his demise to be voted on by the viewing audience.

This notion of The Dead Guy, a reversed engineered version of The Survivor is a rather lackluster setup for a play, but the setup is inconsequential if the drama is expounded in a dynamic compelling delivery, which it is not.


The script by Eric Coble is threadbare and predictable, and Johnson, who as the TV producer is the whip master of the conflict is displays none of the professional hustle, cut throat determination or silver-tongued manipulation that are as conspicuous in entertainment executives as a diamondback’s rattle.


David Miller and Laura Dickinson-Turner as gender switched mother and brother and Jo Ann Mendelson as the long-suffering girlfriend struggle as best they can to keep their heads above the water here, but with a lamentably lame script a and a staging that is best described as humdrum they are struggling against the waves wearing concrete water wings.


One element that I sure they thought was cutting edge was having the footage of the cameraman playing on stage, so the audience would experience the show like a television broadcast, even seeing themselves on screen periodically.


bronze ribbon - Fringe FestivalAt one point, the camera caught me asleep in my seat, and it took the booming voice of Johnson to rouse me.


I’m sure reading this, those involved with the production of The Dead Guy will, grouse something to the effect of – “Why should anyone believe his opinion of our show when he was asleep?”


To which I would respond, “Sleep was my opinion.”




♦      ♦      ♦

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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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