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The Study

mb stage productions, llc · Ages 18+ · flashing lights · world premiere · United States of America

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Review by BRANDON PFELTZ

June 18, 2018 certified reviewer

What I liked

I have to take a moment to recognize the fight choreography, which was achieved in a really stand-out way. Particularly that moment where the jock hits the hillbilly in the head with a bowl or something. Perfect marriage of choreography, adrenaline, and hilarity.

The actors were all very committed to their performances, and you can tell that there was a lot of really genuine listening going on. Each of them had stand out moments and brought something very unique to the table. They were all strong and well defined characters, many of them with very strong subtextual interpretations that led the audience to further sympathize with them. In particular, Katy Wicker commanded the stage as Courtney, the party girl. In a performance that is a funny as it is tender, as understated as it is overstated, and as genuine as it is honest, Wicker gives a stunning turn that leaves the audience craving more. A truly gifted actor with a bright future ahead of her, Wicker is someone to watch.

Matt Hill and Jordan Cole had a lot of natural charisma and charm, perfectly complimenting eachother on stage with a believable warmth and tenderness. Graham Weldin made me hate him so much, which in this role is an absolute compliment. I wanted him to be punched in the throat. But then, and I was shocked, I actually felt bad when we killed him. Starting off as an immensly unlikable villain, Weldin subtly weaves a great progression through his performance, ultimately managing to make himself likable. It’s a testament to his abilities as an actor, and I most likely would not kill him again. Kate Hill and Anthony Kiyoshi Lepage both did a terrific job. Hill brings a badass edge with a sharp bite while she spars with Lepage, who holds his own with charm and ease. I really enjoyed watching their scenes together. Mia Cotton will legitimately haunt my nightmares thanks to her scene later in the show. The terror and sheer anguish she showed in that moment should be recognized as a true depiction of fear. Fantastic and disturbing moment. Matt Franta and Mel Glickman were wildly frightening in their roles as the psychos. Both did a perfect job portraying the batshit craziness needed to pull off making a highly disturbing pair of villains. Bennett Cousins takes us into the show and yanks us right back out. She does a great job of immediately setting the tone of the show and one could easily see the level to which she was grounded. And I’ll be honest, after that creepy shit, it’s nice to see her again at the end of the show to remind me that I’m not about to really be stabbed.

And once again, I have to recognize the talents of Jared Tyrel Pixler and David Evan Stolworthy. Folks, this play is a massive accomplishment. From the sheer amount of work that this must have taken to pull off to the level at which it was executed, Pixler and Stolworthy deserve a lot of credit for creating something so fun. The work put into the script and the production was extremely prevalent, and I found myself smiling a few times thinking about the cleverness of some of the jokes. I attended The Video Games last year and loved it- but I’ll be honest- I like this even better. Fantastic job on the excellent work. Every member of this production should be ridiculously proud.

What I didn't like

I hate when actors talk to me before the show. This is no fault of the creators, merely the fault of my painful social anxiety.

My overall impression

The Study is a phenomenal achievement that is a wickedly fun rabbit hole of campy horror. Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of horror. Not only that, but I scare far too easily and have a habit of falling deep into a pit of psychological torture and despair after horror films. I was hesitant to attend The Study because the waiver convinced me that doing so was going to give me a heart attack. I’m very happy that this wasn’t the case.

What I did receive, however, was a crazy night that left me a more than a little shook from a mixture of anxiety, fear, and straight up fun. In this “Choose Your Own Adventure” style piece, the audience controls the fate of a hapless friend group that’s being terrorized by a dastardly duo of creepy killers. A scene near the end left me particularly disturbed, and the sound design was used to really great effect.

Thanks to a ridiculously clever concept by Jared Tyrel Pixer and David Evan Stolworthy, the show incorporates a lovely mixture of audience decisions that prey on their real fears and insecurities. These preshow and during show decisions unlock different fates and paths for the poor actors who must have been ripping their hair out over the sheer magnitude of work required to pull this off. The good news is, they pulled it off big time. Thanks to laugh-out-loud script that’s simultaneously bathed in camp and genuine terror, The Study stands as a testament to the spirit of Fringe. This show makes for a ridiculously enjoyable evening, and it’s definitely not something that should be missed. Phenomenal job to all of the cast and crew for achieving something that would have made many others fall flat on their faces. Stellar acting, a very solid script, some really wonderful directing, and immersive tech elements make The Study a stand out show of Fringe.

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