We all know LA is full of vapid, empty shallow people who would push their mothers off a cliff for a two-line part in a terrible pilot. Chicago, on the other hand, is full of true artistes that work together with an ensemble approach that, if given the chance, would settle the strife and misery of the world in short order. With Meisner.
Also, LA is where all the really good actors go to do real work with all the other great actors that are beloved by all the world. Chicago is where those that aren’t good enough basically make pretentious, -important ‘plays’ that were really edgy in 1954. Or were big hits OFF-OFf-off Broadway a few years ago.
In Johnny Theatre, now playing at the Chemically Imbalanced Theater, we find out what happens when these two worlds collide and let me tell you gentle readers, it ain’t pretty. But it is funny, so you can laugh through your tears. I know I did.
Whether you are a Chicago actor or an LA actor this play has something to make you feel superior and pathetic about yourself. Everybody wins! Ish!
The play stars Chicago’s answer to Zach Galifianakis, Anderson Lawfer, as a big movie star guy (Jonathon Duva) that comes back to his old theatre company to stage his terrible play. The company is broke and going nowhere, so of course they agree.
But LA people are assholes, even when they buy you dinner, so the rehearsal process doesn’t go very well.
If you have ever been in a storefront theatre production, you will see a lot of crazy things that are kind of sad because it’s really pretty much like that. Treading the line between the outrageous and outrageously accurate, Mike Beyer and Kirk Pynchon pull off a pretty neat trick.
Early on we meet the cast of the Duva’s play:
Dexter (a stoned Dante Bugli) is that slack-ass actor that never have his shit together, is always late, but will probably get a Jeff Nomination and a national commercial.
Richard (a mustached Arne Saupe) the ‘old pro’ that is only doing this show at such a ‘small’ company because he wants to get as close to the movie star as possible.
Holly (a neatly groomed Alison Clayton ) is the actress that is convinced that everyone wants to bang her.
Ray (a caleby Caleb Probst) is plays that really sweet guy in the cast that decides at the first read through that you and him are going to be best pals and will never leave you alone.
Stage Manager Phil (a thank you 5 minutes Bryan Beckwith) is the long suffering poor sap that has to wrangle these poor souls.
Elizabeth (a not in the boat Lauren Bourke) is that poor actress that a director can tell is so eager to please that they always totally fuck with her.
Kathi (a $50 stipendly Alexandria Frenkel) is the intern. I think you can guess what Duva does to her.
And Artistic Director Dana (a level-headed, devoted, overworked, underpaid Casey Pilkenton) is the level-headed, devoted, over worked, underpaid Artistic Director that we all know and should have empathy for.
And the you will be surprised at how nice and understanding the landlord of the theatre turns out to be! Dana and Bob the landlord (a dashing Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance Michael Derting.)
So you’ve got the diluted Hollywood actor and this cast of familiar Chicago theatre types. The play being produced is a musical that takes place in the Depression called ‘Dusty’. The premise of ‘Dusty’ is ridiculous and yet it is as good, or better then a lot of what you will see in someone’s 2012/2013 season brochure.
Representing LA is (fair toothed) Catherine Dildiian as a perma-smile Hollywood reporter and (beautifully headbanded) Ray Ready plays Duva’s ever jogging assistant with panache, style and gayness.
In the 2nd act we meet the new French director George (a surrender-ly Adam Schulmerich) and we know this project is doomed. Let’s face it; the one thing that will always sink a Chicago off-loop production is a French person.
I think that is really the lesson here. As hard as it is to mix the divergent worlds of Big Shouldered Chicago and Big Everything Los Angeles there is one thing we can all agree on. The French are terrible.
As a consumer advocate I would suggest you go see this play if you’ve ever been in, produced, seen or know someone involved in a storefront theatre production.