InHouse Theatre is a company birthed from Lab, a performing arts group rooted in individual initiative, void of designated "teachers," spearheaded by Raphael Sbarge. It's inspiring to watch companies emerge this way because usually everyone on board is in it to win it and willing to go above and beyond to simply put in the work, something that can be unfortunately lacking in other auditioned theatre groups. InHouse also keeps a tradition of putting on site-specific pieces. You purchase a ticket to the production and you know the general neighborhood the performance will take place in, but they don't send you the address until two days before the show.
This weekend, three of my favorite champions of the American theatre joined me for InHouse's production of Down the Road by Lee Blessing. Candace the actor, her husband Patrick the engineer and Ashley, the theatrical agent. Candace, Pat and I were already InHouse fans, having visited their last production of Dinner With Friends by Donald Margulies at the historic Moncado Mansion in West Adams earlier in the fall. After having such a wonderful time at that show, we were looking forward to this new experience and sharing the world of InHouse with Ashley.
At the space somewhere in the Hollywood area (around Santa Monica & Western) about fifty or so patrons were packed next to each other amongst two arrangements of seats facing each other in the playing space. Physically it was simultaneously special and uncomfortable, which worked in favor of this storytelling. We could not always see everything from where we were sitting, but I think that also worked to the style's advantage. To our left was the interrogation room at a penitentiary. To our right was a seedy motel room, theatrically geographically not far from the jail. The story revolves around Iris (Elizabeth Schmidt) and Dan Henniman (Rob Welsh), two investigative nonfiction writers, currently working on completing a memoir/"why I did it" novel about serial killer William Reach (Bryce McBratnie). As they continue to question the motives and background of Reach, the strength of their marriage is also questioned. Power shifts as we begin to contemplate the lengths someone will take to be unforgettable.
McBratnie is excellent as the murderer/killer. When we were first introduced to his character as he interviewed with Dan at the table, I was caught off guard. He was calm, patient, relaxed and had a great disposition. He was amiable, almost chipper. Charming. I wrote down, "I don't know if this approach is going to work." But his eye contact was unyielding, as my companions would later agree with this observation. And the willingness and near delight he found in elaborating on the gruesome acts he inflicted on 19+ women allowed for a terrifying gradual reveal of just how messed up the character is. Just, this actor did a really nice job, very honest energy. As a whole, through Drew Rausch's innovative direction, the actors succeed captivating us in the scenes with them so intently, that all it took for a large percentage of the audience to jump in their seats was a committed bang of the cuffs against the iron table.
Personally, the Dinner With Friends experience was more my cup of tea: Donald Margulies writing and French 75s on the porch of a historic home where one of my favorite TV shows was filmed. But this production changed me because it introduced me to Lee Blessing's honest, yet pensive writing style (this play is a part of a three show cycle/collection) and as an audience member, gave me some of the necessary feels to formulate intimate, site-specific pieces with my company in the future. I like the direction this company is moving in and I look forward to seeing what they do next.
InHouse's Down the Road runs in Hollywood for a limited number of performances through May 7. Go for the convict. He'll make you squirm in your seat and sometimes he'll give you no choice but to look away. A challenging production put up by one of my favorite indie theatre companies in LA; check it out before it's too late!