Production stills by Carol Rosegg
NEW YORK — The 2009 Drama Desk Award nominated Southern Gothic Novel: The Aberdeen, Mississippi Sex-Slave Incident, written and performed by Frank Blocker, returns to Stage Left Studio for two command performances on October 25 and November 8. The play was directed by Cheryl King, with development assistance from Gabriel Shanks and Murray Scott Changar.
The play was very popular in its first run in 2009, and audiences found Frank Blocker’s mastery of fast character changes and hilarious dialogue to be a thrilling departure from normal one-man shows.
“I still watch the show every chance I get,” says King, who also directed the show and is co-producer. “It ran for a year and a half and I’m thrilled to have it back. I’m still excited about what’s coming next, even though I’ve seen it brilliantly performed a few dozen times.”
The story concerns young Viola Haygood, who is so involved with the futile chase of a dark, handsome man that she is oblivious to an unfolding mystery involving white slavery in their small town. Not exactly standard comedy material, but when you throw in 15 additional characters – each with his or her own melodrama and plotline – the result is a rollicking adventure in the vein of many a classic movie. In fact, the play mimics a gothic novel and has been oft-referred by critics as “cinematic.”
Frank Blocker plays all 17 parts (including a June bug), delivering dialogue in rapid fire and myriad regional accents. He also uses skilled pantomime to create every conceivable piece of scenery and action, even a knock-down-drag-out fight between four characters and a hostage.
“I love to hear audience members tell me they forget it is one person and a box, especially when they come back to see it again,” Blocker said. “I’m told they envision the entire town of Aberdeen, Mississippi—the buildings, the streets, people, the river—and they came back to see what they’d missed while they were laughing.”
Southern plays often resonate with New York audiences, and this play has been no different. It was a critically acclaimed darling in 2009 and also garnered a nomination for Audience Favorite Award. Anita Gates of The New York Times called it “flawlessly executed” and continued in her review, “Apparently, Mr. Blocker can act in any position.” The Philadelphia Bulletin called it, “Unique and utterly brilliant.”
The play was also well-received around the country in its limited national tour: The New York International Fringe Festival, Baltimore’s The Sky Room, Atlanta’s Whole World Theatre, and the Columbus National Theatre Festival (where it won Outstanding Performance in a Solo Play and Outstanding Playwright awards). And, more than 30 people from Aberdeen, Mississippi, personally traveled to see the play – thanks in part to Facebook and the power of social media.
“It’s very exciting to bring the show back, especially in Cheryl’s incredible new space.” Novel will be one of the newest shows in the space, King having just re-opened after the move. Now just a block south of Penn Station, the show is easily accessible to New York and area audiences. The intimate space, designed specifically for solo performers, seats only 40. But from the 6th floor of a Manhattan building, they can travel to and become part of this Southern Gothic Novel.
Southern Gothic Novel: The Aberdeen, Mississippi Sex-Slave Incident performs October 25, and November 8, at Stage Left Studio, 214 W. 30th Street, 6th Floor, Mondays at 8:00 pm. TICKETS are $20 and available through Brown Paper Tickets. http://www.BrownPaperTickets.com
For some theatergoers, Frank Blocker may seem familiar as he was part of David Bertolino’s now infamous The Deep Throat Sex Scandal which was forced to close due to the financial collapse of the theatre space, 45 Bleecker. His performance was called “showstopping,” “hilarious,” and “a triumph” by New York Magazine, CurtainUp, and the New York Press.