‘The Money Shot’ Highlights Triviality in Our Culture

Review of The Money Shot
By Neil LaBute
Directed by Kimberly Kalember & Sandra Ish

For tickets & schedule:
www.leftedgetheatre.com
Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
Santa Rosa, CA
Left Edge Theatre

RUN: May 19 – June 4, 2017
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

(May 20, 2017)

Left Edge Theatre - The Money Shot

Photo by Left Edge Theatre

The Money Shot is a study in superficiality—living on the casual level, unwilling to form deeper human connections. Neil LaBute presents a kaleidoscope of examples, from Steve’s blatant disregard for the company he is with to Karen’s subtle narcissism through constant name dropping of her accomplishments and snide remarks that make her partner feel under valued. This cesspool of insincerity comes to a boil in a drawn-out conflict that leaves the audience with an abrupt, odd sort of ending, wondering if there was another scene meant to be there, or if the sudden cutoff of action was deliberate.

The premise is quite simple, if rather smutty; two famed Hollywood actors are considering an actual sex scene in their latest film to raise ratings overseas, and have met with their partners to discuss the implications. Argo Thompson’s set design is an upscale “outdoor room” sort of style, straight out of the latest Frontgate. In between sips from a Sangria dispenser, the cast politely quarrels for the majority of the play—typical of a party where too little attention has been paid to the guest list and their compatibility.

Left Edge Theatre - The Money Shot

Photo by Left Edge Theatre

Loudest with voicing her concerns is Karen’s partner, Bev (Sandra Ish) who takes the thoughtless remarks about her sexuality and culture personally, and is not about to let them slide. While her reactions are warranted, the character comes across as belligerent and a bit of a bully, showing the opposite side of the spectrum from Missy (Heather Gordon), who is Steve’s partner and prefers to stay aloof from the situation. Gordon keeps the audience guessing about whether her lack of attention and persona is simply an act for the sake of her career, or genuine. Either way, we do not get to know who she really is—representing those whose façade might be purposefully imposed to attain certain goals.

Laurie Gauguin’s Karen is the quintessential self obsessed star—she ignores the task at hand to quibble over where her name appears on the movie poster, and constantly talks about her non-profit organizations, Malibu restaurant and fragrance line. Dodds Delzell as Steve is the character you love to hate, “manspreading” across half the couch, spouting ignorant nonsense, and oblivious to the chaos until it affects him personally.

Left Edge Theatre - The Money Shot

Photo by Left Edge Theatre

Left Edge Theatre’s The Money Shot is a quirky play with talented comedic actors that makes you think as much as you laugh, putting a spotlight on awkward social situations caused by the tendency to avoid discussing what really matters, preferring to live in a sort of fantasy realm of general topics until it becomes so offensive that a battle ensues.

Love and War in ‘Private Lives’

Review of Private Lives
By Noël Coward
Directed by Ken Rowland

For tickets / schedule :
www.rossvalleyplayers.com
Marin Art & Garden Center Barn Theatre
Ross, CA
Ross Valley Players

RUN: May 19 – June 18, 2017
RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars

(May 19, 2017)

Ross Valley Players - Private Lives

Photo by Robin Jackson

Daring passion can be magnificent when lovers are in harmony, but what happens when its explosion of power leads to virulent quarrels, self destructing the relationship? Is a calm, cozy affection better in the long run, or a watered down version of true love? For two couples on honeymoon, it becomes a life changing decision. Penned in mere days, when Noël Coward was ill in Shanghai, the play has a quick, flowing pace, driven by emotions of the characters, rather than a decisive plot. The final scene is bittersweet and satisfying—a fitting conclusion to the open question of whether love is worth fighting for.

Ken Rowland’s set design creates a romantic atmosphere, with sheer curtains, rose colored marble balconies and cascading potted plants that shift into a comfortable Art Deco flat for Act II. Augmenting the mood is Stephen Dietz’s sound design of ocean waves and light orchestra. When combined with tactile language from Coward’s script, it is easy to picture lights from the yachts twinkling on moonlit water far below.

The tempestuous stage fight, choreographed by Zoë Swenson-Graham, is riddled with breaking objects, some of which seem quite real, and had the audience on the edge of their seats, gaping at the quarrel while actors ducked and threw books, records, chairs, pillows, and anything else at hand, smashing lamps and vases with gleeful abandon. It must have been quite the scene to stage, and keeps its spontaneous quality, thanks to being well-rehearsed and smoothly executed. Janice Koprowski’s costume designs are opulent, with flowing 1930s gowns and modish pant suits, rather like Miss Fisher’s Mysteries.

Ross Valley Players - Private Lives

Photo by Robin Jackson

Four quite varied characters inhabit Private Lives—the feminine “girl next door” Sibyl, suave world traveler Elyot who has a habit of becoming flippant when faced with an awkward situation, Amanda, a wildcat and consummate liar, yet alluring despite it, and Victor, the stuffy, normal sort of fellow who is taken aback at the proceedings. Together they must navigate the dangerous path of love; whether they succeed or not is up for interpretation.

LeAnne Rumbel’s Amanda struggles with finding her identity—she retains the charged zeal of her youth, but tempered, until passion rips apart her perceived maturity. Rumbel’s melodramatic dancing is a sight to behold, and she tosses out javelin insults with the practiced ease of an Olympian. Gregory Crane as Elyot carries the quality of a Shakespearean actor into the role, bringing out the music and elegant repetition of Coward’s lines. Simon Patton’s Victor is quietly present for most of the play, until blazing into action during the final act. Laura Morgan as Sibyl enters an emotional roller coaster, which the character’s sheltered upbringing has not prepared her for, and keeps a level of naïve surprise when she bursts into tears at being treated in such an unfamiliar manner. Susan Stein as Louise, the French maid, may not have lines in English, but she does not need them to make an impression—the way she flings garlic about, snarling at the state of the room is highly amusing in any language.

Ross Valley Players - Private Lives

Photo by Robin Jackson

Private Lives with Ross Valley Players is an honest portrayal of how love can bring out the best and worst in a couple. When passion runs hot, so does anger and jealousy—is it worth the journey? Noël Coward’s classic play remains relevant, with a sparkling, witty cast and well timed direction from Ken Rowland.

Comedic Mayhem at 6th Street Playhouse

Review of A Masterpiece of Comic…Timing
By Robert Caisley
Directed by Craig A. Miller

For tickets & schedule:
www.6thstreetplayhouse.com
6th Street Playhouse
Santa Rosa, CA

RUN: May 12-28, 2017
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

(May 12, 2017)

A Masterpiece of Comic ... Timing - 6th Street Playhouse

Photo by Eric Chazankin

In the hands of the right director and actors, a mediocre play can become entertaining. Such is the case with the audaciously named A Masterpiece of Comic…Timing. While it does not live up to the promise, nevertheless, the play is a frothy confection of tawdry farce.

Producer Jerry Cobb wants to create a hit comedy on Broadway, and brings in a talented writer—what could go wrong? The writer arrives in a melancholic state, unable to work, the hotel turns into an unnatural array of weather zones, and what they thought would save the day makes the situation worse instead. As the tension builds, taking the bourbon with it, characters unravel under the stress, turning from classic tropes into crazed maniacs desperate for an out. While the first act has a slow build, the interaction between Cobb (Chris Schloemp) and his assistant Charlie Bascher (Benjamin Stowe) keeps the rhythm moving with their enthusiastic physicality.

A Masterpiece of Comic ... Timing - 6th Street Playhouse

Photo by Eric Chazankin

A Masterpiece of Comic…Timing is filled with veteran actors, who manage to keep the energy level high, despite the lack of exceptional jokes and disconcerting portrayal of women. It is a period piece, set in the 1960s, which was a different culture, but despite Rose Roberts’ extraordinary performance as Nola Hart, it is difficult to see past the fact that she is portraying a sexual object without much in the way of intellectual caliber. The acting in this play is extraordinary, and Craig A. Miller’s creative, over-the-top directing style is vibrant and engaging, but the team was tasked with eking out humor from undistinguished lines.

Jesse Dreikosen’s set design is retro chic with an attention to detail that makes it feel like an actual hotel room, not a stage. From the teal and orange vinyl couch to maraschino cherries on the bar, it captures the splashy sophistication of the 1960s.

A Masterpiece of Comic…Timing is a lively, amusing evening, despite its flaws, with a strong cast and flair for the dramatic. If you enjoy slapstick farce and vintage style humor, this is the play for you.

« Older Entries