[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of J. Bothwell Productions’ Stockholm Syndrome, written and directed by award-winning writer Kamal John Iskander, and produced by and starring award-winning and four-time Fringe Festival veteran Joey Bothwell at the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2023.
Stockholm Syndrome is an ever-prescient reminder that Los Angeles is truly an awful place to live.
It’s worth noting at this point that the show itself is a blast. A psychology-tickling, chuckle-inducing, dark comedy that engages its audience with witty, conversational humor — before slowly pulling back the curtain on some demonically delightful intrigue. I say the Los Angeles thing because the characters portrayed within this one-hour drama are absolutely terrible people (in the best possible way).
We’ve got our leading man, Ramzey Ramone (played by Ohad Bitton), a bumbling Hollywood director who hasn’t had an original thought in his head since the 90s. Surrounding Ramzey is a colorful cast of ambitious, scene-stealing agents, actors and ex-proteges (played by Sean Hemeon and Jenna Zhu) — all possessing the unique ability to get under Ramzey’s skin in the most hilarious way.
But none get under Ramzey’s skin quite like the dangerously enticing Katrina Castren (played by Joey Bothwell). She’s an aspiring actor with an unexpected taste for lemon margaritas and a penchant for psychological penetration. She’s the perfect foil for the not-so-secretly insecure Ramzey Ramone, who swiftly deteriorates under the pressure of her scalpel-precise jabs and inquisitions.
The whole show revolves around the electric back and forth between Ramzey and Katrina. Both characters already sizzle with charisma. But, when placed together in a monochromatic hotel lobbby for an extended period of time, the two uncover secrets you’d never expect, and crackle like fireworks when their human drama rises to its deliciously devious ending.
It’s a dynamic push and pull for sure. It reads like a comically-cutting psychiatry session put to stage with razor-sharp writing by the exceptionally clever Kamal John Iskander. The psychic damage our washed-up Hollywood director endures over the course of this play is truly a delight to watch, and it has a lot to do with the acting chops of both our leads.
Bothwell is utterly hypnotic as the quiet powerhouse Katrina — a femme fatale pulled right out of a pulp-fiction paperback from the 1940s. She captures the audience from her very first appearance, gazing down from the shadows of the hotel balcony, and never letting us go till the very end.
And then there’s Ramzey Ramon. Bitton fits this part like a glove. At first slick, shrewd and self-important, Ramzey quickly dissolves into a stammering, pitiful mess. It’s not an easy gap to bridge, but Bitton dances that divide with grace and a captivating sense of humor. His portrait of Ramzey is compellingly human — flaws, vulnerabilities and all.
Stockholm Syndrome is a “sensual, diabolical, vulnerable, hysterical” tale of two Hollywood archetypes matched in a captivating game of cat and mouse. And yes, I pulled that quote straight from the show. It’s got great dialogue, electric performances, and more than a little intrigue. But best of all, it’ll keep you guessing till the very end.
You can see Stockholm Syndrome on June 11th, June 18th, and June 24th. Tickets are available at hollywoodfringe.org — a fine theatrical tradition that reminds us that, actually, Los Angeles isn’t that awful place to live after all. Get your tickets today!
Sunday, June 11 at 4:00 PM
Sunday, June 18 at 12:30 PM
Saturday, June 24 at 7:00 PM
1157 N McCadden Pl., Los Angeles, CA 90038