Remaining performances: July 11 at 3 p.m.; July 12 at 1 p.m.; July 25 at 8:30 p.m.
They say: How many butts do you have to sniff to claim top dog in Hollywood? John Patrick Shanley’s fast past romp through Hollywood’s flea-bitten underbelly.
Annie’s take: Entering a play that paints a warts-and-all (quite literally—-I’ll get to that later) portrait of four megalomaniacal Hollywood prototypes in a humble-ticket-prices-and-all Fringe Festival smacks, at first glance, of self-righteous finger-pointing. However, when the script is outstanding and the acting can do it justice, the production inspires a rather fresh rumination on both the craft of making theater and its participants’ often harebrained motivations for doing so. Throw a couple of tables, liquor bottles, makeup cases, and low-res, scene-establishing screen projections into a tiny theater, add four characters spouting metaphor-laden lines intended to screw one another over, and you’ve got yourself a pretty compelling show.
John Patrick Shanley, whose mantelpiece might or might not display his Oscar (Moonstruck, 1988), Pulitzer (Doubt, 2005) and Tony (also for Doubt), delivers a script that both toys with and ultimately, subverts the audience’s conceptions of the four characters. Upon first acquaintance, each of them seems a bit shopworn: the sleazy producer, Bradley; the fame-hungry young seductress, Brenda; the neurotic screenwriter, Victor; and the ingenue-turned-character-actress, Collette. Together they attempt to make a movie that will launch them into the coveted galaxy of Hollywood stardom. Of the four, the latter is the least intriguing: predictably, the realization that her wiles have failed to produce the desired outcome propels her into a hair-yanking hissyfit.
The most compelling action comes to circulate around the interplay between Victor (Graham Pilato)—-who deserves additional props for a fine drunken drawl—-and Bradley (Keith Waters), plagued throughout the play by a crustaceon-sized sore in his nether-regions. Initially painted as the sincere puppy in the dog pen, Victor’s writerly obligations—-to comely Brenda, to the necessity of working through some Freudian family issues—-are shaken as Bradley insinuates that success, in Hollywood, comes at the price of integrity. Sounds clichÃ©d, yes? Fair enough, but the superbly acted dialogue between the two that ends the show manages to leave a central question unanswered. “It’s not about the money,” Bradley proclaims, without offering a closing alternative. Walking at once of a staged Hollywood office and a cramped Fringe venue, the question tends to linger….
See it if: Having lived under a rock for the past few decades, you have yet to discover that Hollywood is home to some smarmy, duplicitous douchebags.
Skip it if: The sight of a used dressing for an internal sore “the size of a Dungeness crab” in an onstage trash can could potentially turn your stomach.