…because I just had to contribute to the most-reviewed show in the Festival.
Cheerfully sidestepping the obvious jokes (about how popular he is, can his writing live up to the reputation he’s so doggedly worked for, et cetera), I’d like to observe that this is an entirely typical Joseph Scrimshaw script — in the sense that it’s very funny, very successfully so, with an incredibly aggressive laugh-to-minute ratio — so much so that, I suspect, audiences are willing to dismiss the more thoughtful elements, or to not even look for them.
Certainly this plays into a major issue of mine, the whole money vs. integrity problem, and one that’s been particularly irksome to me over the past year. He’s far from the first writer to draw an analogue between Los Angeles and Hell — I’m an Angel fan, after all — nor is he the first to draw a parallel between losing one’s integrity and selling one’s soul. It’s not a new story, but it’s rare to see it wrapped in such deft comedy writing.
The main dynamic revolves around the three auditioning actors, who seem to represent people at different stages along that journey: the wide-eyed community theatre actor, who’s just packed up and moved to Hollywood; the jaded family man who’s been working there for ten years; and the burned-out child star who has, in all likelihood, passed the point of no return.
The star of the show is definitely Randy Reyes, although they’re all ably performed. His character doesn’t do anything particularly awful, but he certainly does stuff that’s awful to him, and that compromises his own stringent set of values — debatably, these are all compromises he consented to the moment that he chose to enter show business at all. My favorite scene in the show is between him and the director, who repeatedly asks him why he chose to take a torch to his old life and uproot his wife and children — and then simply dismisses and bulldozes the various “gee-shucks” platitudes he tries to throw out. The implication is clear: that he tries to set himself up as a moral paragon, but that his actions have been selfish, and possibly rendered more so by his inability to accept that fact. The difference between him and Middleton’s embittered, vindictive character is a question of degree, not of type; and the degree to which we’ve all sold our souls is one that we should be examining very carefully.
The fact is that it’s entirely possible to laugh through the entire show without considering any of those points, and whether that consitutes either a failure or a triumph is a complex question, and one that largely depends on your perspective. I consider the fact that that very question is close to being at the heart of what this show’s about to be quite clever.
…and the jokes are funny, too.