THEATRE REVIEW: Blackboxing takes an Hysterical Poke at the Craft at the Hollywood Fringe Festival

Photos by Matt Kamimura
Matt Ritchey as Travis in “Blackboxing” at the Dorie Theatre at The Complex in Hollywood, Hollywood Fringe Festival 2019.

UPDATED 11/1/19

Full disclosure: this writer donated toward the making of this show without being privy to its full plot and content and has no vested interest in its box office take or success.

In the play Blackboxing, actor and writer Matt Ritchey takes an insightful and loving dig into theatre through his character Travis.

In the world of theatre, a “black box” can mean an interior theater space painted entirely in black in order to allow more freedom in its use. It is also a term for experimental theatre and some have been known to get pretty literal with the latter. Travis Acedia is up to the task, and he’s taking you with him.

A “one-man show with a two-person cast,” the play hysterically goes to the mattresses with a solo show that uses the stage as a reason to regurgitate their life story; as a form of personal therapy; and as a vehicle for their own masturbatory amusement.

“Blackboxing” at the Dorie Theatre at The Complex in Hollywood, Hollywood Fringe Festival 2019.

“Blackboxing” also takes multiple nods and pot-shots at theatre community superstitions, overused dramatic standards, and novice Hollywood Fringe show producers’ unreasonable expectations, over-estimations, and underestimationsall to great comic effect.

Also a theatre critic and a director, Ritcheyadroitly directed by Matthew Martin heremakes good use of the Dorie Theatre space, a perfect black box that has housed many such a production, and has likely seen many an actor and show producer of Travis’ ilk.

Travis loves the arts. He loves acting, poetry, and music. He loves his parents and is really good at accents. But Travis is not doing so good inside, and he’s trying to let us know it.

Through a series of pretentious and telling skits, riffs, soliloquies, and spontaneous interpretive dance numbers, Travis shares his special knowledge and unique appreciation of contemporary culture, music, Shakespeare, puppetry, the dramatic artsand about his depression.

If the megalomania is not yet apparent here, it will be in the program.

In a few musical numbers, Travis makes some dotted use of Nine Inch Nails’ “Wish” and Marilyn Manson’s “Dope Show,” to look edgy, with naughty bits censored (punctuated)to keep things clean, you know, for the parents. And some Lil Jon, LMFAO, and a smattering of other contemporary pop hits, to look hip. He quotes from “Hurt” in the program because how else can he properly prepare you for his downward spiral? He also has some musical treats of his own, such as “Smellay Lahk A Turkay,” of which speaks for itself.

All the while, Travis is not-so-blissfully unaware that a little more respect for a man, whose technical training and vocation skill he knows nothing about, could perhaps go a very long way for him. And special kudos here to Jim Niedzialkowski.

The result is a hilarious and self-aware tribute by Ritchey to the craft of acting, technical theatre, and Fringe festivals, with some poignant insight on that delicate eggshell walk it is to come out about mental illness.

The deets: “Blackboxing“, plays Friday, 6/14 at 8:30 p.m., Sunday, 6/16 at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, 6/22 at 4:00 p.m., Thursday, 6/27 at 10:30 p.m., Saturday, 6/29 at 6:30 p.m., at the Dorie Stage at The Complex Theatres located at 6476 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Go to their calendar for tickets and more information.

The venue: The Complex Hollywood is situated on Theatre Row in the Hollywood Media District area, houses various acting class instructors and theater labs, offers four different rental theatre spaces, and participates in the Hollywood Fringe Festival annually.

About Monique A. LeBleu

Monique A. LeBleu is a writer, photographer, videographer, and shameless foodie and wineaux. A love of film history and a background in film production, post-production, and film theory provide unique insights into her movie reviews. As well, a background in technical theater fuels her passion on all-things theater. As a foodie, living in the ever-growing and diverse culinary landscape that is the City of Los Angeles feeds her never-ending pursuit of the perfect comfort food—the world's best Mac n' Cheese!
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