Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Theater review: Completely Hollywood at Cox Building Playhouse
Three actors, one film studio and a whole lot of laughs.
PLANO When the opportunity to see a Reduced Shakespeare Company show presents itself, I leap at the opportunity. Having seen the company live three times, producing and directing one of their shows myself, and meeting Austin Tichenor, Reed Martin and Matt Rippy twice, it is safe to say they are my favorite contemporary theatre artists. Rover Dramawerks' production of Completely Hollywood (Abridged) is, therefore, a must see for die-hard RSC fans like myself.
For those unfamiliar with the Reduced Shakespeare Company, they are famous for their “abridged” shows - The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), The Complete History of America (Abridged), The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged), etc ... all of which follow a similar theme, three actors attempt to cover a seemingly impossible amount of material in under two hours while playing over ten characters each in hilarious fashion.
Paramount to any production is being well cast and Paul McKenzie chose his actors wisely. Each actor brings years of experience, skills and talent to the show. Joel Frapart, portraying the Hollywood director, is delightful as he guides the audience through the film-making process, calling for various camera angles which Jason Lunn and Chris Sykes then demonstrate. He's also instrumental in recruiting volunteers for audience participation, encouraging the performance of those participants and reigning in those who are over-exuberant. He also delivers the best one-liner of the performance in an improv segment of the show. Chris Sykes is allowed to explore his feminine side, playing nearly all of the female characters. His portrayal of Tippi Hedren in “The Birds” is hysterical. Last, but not least, Jason Lunn, though a stiff performer plays the egotistical actor to fantastic results. His deadpan nature slightly conflicts with the schmoozy nature of the character but it doesn't interfere with his performance.
The greatest difficulty in presenting a Reduced Shakespeare Company show is the conversational style of the script. The lines, although presentational in nature, should flow effortlessly between the actors. All three actors have some problem with this aspect of their performance, Lunn especially. These difficulties with the lines, sometimes presenting them in a mechanical fashion, make scenes drag on. However, the quick puns in the script and wit of the actors makes the entire show quite enjoyable.
The set for Completely Hollywood (Abridged) is incredible and simplistic. The stage is bare except for painted legs, curtains on either side of a stage that provide entrance and exit spaces for performers, which look like giant film strips. Iconic film images, including Hannibal Lecter, 1934's King Kong, John Wayne in True Grit, and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, are presented. Clint Alan Ray displays expert painting skills with this set.
The costumes are perfect. All three actors start in a simple base of black shirt, black pants and tennis shoes. Each character is given their own distinctive costume built on top of the base. Frapart dons a fishing vest to play a big-time Hollywood director. Sykes appears oddly comfortable in his blonde, curly wig. Lunn gets into the character of the all-American hero, Luke McShane, with the help of a cowboy hat and shirt.
A unique characteristic of Completely Hollywood (Abridged) at Rover Dramawerks is the use of video packages. Just like a real Hollywood-produced movie experience, the audience is treated to previews of Rover Dramawerks upcoming shows as well as pre-show ads. It is a brilliant decision that adds to the atmosphere.
Finally, Completely Hollywood (Abridged) relies heavily on audio cues, all of which are well collected and produced by Jason Rice. Everything from a silent film era piano piece, a cameo of the Thomas the Tank Engine theme, and a snappy '80s montage can be heard.
Rover Dramawerks presentation of Completely Hollywood (Abridged) is not perfect. It's easy to lose interest in some of the longer, slower, speaking sections. However, it is witty, funny and worth seeing.
With a large audience to feed off for energy, the performances of the actors will surely improve. So, bring a group of friends, buy some candy and a drink and enjoy a wonderful skewering of the biggest entertainment machine in the world.
Pegasus News Content partner - John Garcia's The Column
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