Review of The Money Shot
By Neil LaBute
Directed by Kimberly Kalember & Sandra Ish
For tickets & schedule:
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)
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.
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’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.