The Smell of Popcorn

By Jose Luis Ramos Escobar; Directed by Jorge B. Merced

Javier E. Gomez and Luciana Fulhaber in The Smell of Popcorn.

BOTTOM LINE: A suspenseful, chilling, attention-grabbing production.

So what the heck is the smell of popcorn? Strange name for a show, and I was intrigued before it even began. Although it's basically a confrontation between a robbery victim and her attacker, the play is really much deeper than just that. The Smell of Popcorn is a tense, suspenseful and smartly executed play that I really enjoyed.

The story starts with Fabiola (Luciana Faulhaber), who is an actress practicing for her role as Desdemona in Othello. The night seems innocent enough: Fabiola comes home from a rehearsal and unwinds as she gets ready for bed. As she is sleeping, Georgie (Javier E. Gomez) breaks into her apartment. Georgie is quite menacing and wields a knife that he uses to boss Fabiola around. A fight ensues and it is a struggle for Fabilola as Georgie clearly overpowers her. Mike Yahn’s convincing fight choreography never seems forced or unnatural.

There are a lot of intense moments in this play, times when I honestly had no idea what was going to happen next. My fears were taken to the edge; sometimes they were realized and sometimes they weren’t. Gomez plays these threatening moments beautifully. As a villain, he always seems to keep Fabiola on the edge of his knife both literally and figuratively. It was great to watch, as Faulhaber never overindulges the fear or sadness that is demanded by her character.

As Fabiola struggles with Georgie, she slowly finds ways to outsmart or connect with him to back off. She chips away at Georgie’s tough shell and finds his vulnerabilities. In the process he becomes a more three-dimensional character. Georgie has his own struggles and truths that have led him to a life of crime; this realization makes him almost sympathetic. Fabiola senses his vulnerabilities and uses her wit to get control of the situation. It’s a fantastic power struggle and creates more depth to the story.

Bonus points if you’ve seen or read Shakespeare’s Othello. Fabiola is preparing for a role in the play as a plot point, but the connections go beyond that. The relationship between Desdemona and Othello are played out between Georgie and Fabiola and there are other references to the themes.

Anyone who enjoys a good story should check this show out. It’s a fairly simple plot, and aside from the opening monologue, the play is basically a straight narrative. It's a tense show that will likely hold your attention the whole way through. Oh, and by the end of the show you will know what the smell of popcorn means.

(The Smell of Popcorn plays at IATI Theater, 64 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery, through September 19, 2010. Performances are Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. There is a special performance Monday September 13th at 7pm.  Tickets are $18 and $15 for seniors and students.  Tickets are available at