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Inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s sexual farce, writer Peter Lefcourt has fashioned a hilarious sendup of Hollywood mores and memes, performed by a sparkling cast under the deft direction of Terri Hanauer. Lefcourt has written scripts for Hollywood for more than 30 years, including “Eight Is Enough” and “Desperate Housewives,” and apparently has the scars to show for it.
His glittering farce is set at El Pueblo de la Venezia, an overpriced and overhyped restaurant whose denizens are the usual array of celebrity agents, actors, producers, realtors and fitness instructors. Like Schnitzler’s classic comedy, the play features the interconnected, serial stories of several characters who meet at the restaurant, at the same table, for lunch.
There is the aging actor (Kathryn Harrold), the producer (Michael B. Silver), the pregnant studio exec (Kate Siegel), the agent (Joe Briggs), the realtor (Gina Hecht), the writer (Brynn Thayer), the fitness consultant (Haley Strode), the lawyer (Robert Trebor), the bimbo (Fiona Gubelmann), the movie star (Jay Huguley) and a delightful Greek chorus of waiters all named Bruce (Daniel Montgomery, Demetrius Keone Thomas, Amanda Kruger, Matt Austin and Clent Bowers).
Although farces about Tinseltown are tricky to pull off — they often quickly devolve into caricature and come with a heavy dose of anger from envious playwrights — Lefcourt’s play avoids all those pitfalls, as he obviously has been swimming in these waters for years and knows the players intimately.
Like most fine comedy, the play is based on truth; you can’t make this stuff up. And the playwright adds another important ingredient to the mix: He maintains an odd affection for all his characters, as shallow, superficial and narcissistic as they might be.
Hanauer does a bang-up job of directing, letting loose a stellar cast of actors to perform at their creative best while still holding a firm rein over the tone of the piece. Her use of imaginative props, music, choreography (Tracy Silver) and costumes (Shon Le Blanc) add immeasurably to the evening.
The cast is outstanding. Huguley is picture-perfect as the narcissistic star, Briggs is a hyperactive wonder as the agent, Gubelmann shines as the bimbo with a 165 IQ, Hecht captures the essence of the Hollywood realtor, Siegel is marvelous as the mommy exec, Trebor is terrific as the lawyer, Thayer nails the lesbian writer role, Harrold is unforgettable as the aging diva, Silver is a suitably desperate producer and Strode is perky perfection as the personal-fitness consultant. The Bruces also feature several standouts — including Montgomery, Thomas and a silver-throated Bowers.
Venue: The Skylight Theatre, Los Angeles (Through Nov. 15)
Cast: Kathryn Harrold, Michael B. Silver, Kate Siegel, Joe Briggs, Gina Hecht, Brynn Thayer, Haley Strode, Robert Trebor, Fiona Gubelmann, Jay Huguley, Daniel Montgomery, Demetrius Keone Thomas, Amanda Kruger, Matt Austin, and Clent Bowers
Playwright: Peter Lefcourt
Director: Terri Hanauer
Costumes: Shon Le Blanc
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