note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
Everyone, it seems, who’s in the biz has written a tell-all about being mauled by the soulless merchants of dreams. Last month we were treated to SpeakEasy’s smart THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED (Douglas Carter Beane’s counter attack on Hollywood)---and now the Lyric Stage Company tackles Theresa Rebeck’s scathing account of television and movie hell called THE SCENE (playing through March 15th). The double edged title has everyone in the play craving to be part of the show business scene---and later in the action, a sexy little schemer makes quite a scene herself. If this were a Claire Booth Luce ‘40s play, the sexpot would be called a social climber and a backstabber. Since it’s 2008, I’ll call her a destructive little bitch who sleeps her way to the top.
The program notes indicate that Rebeck was influenced by Somerset Maugham’s OF HUMAN BONDAGE but THE SCENE reminds me more of David Mamet’s SPEED THE PLOW, where a devious go-getter maneuvers herself into a far better position than prone.
In Rebeck’s play, the hot little number (Georgia Lyman) launches herself like a missile at any male with connections to “the scene.” Her military operation is carried out without regard for casualties. Poor Charlie (Jeremiah Kissel). He sacrifices everything for her and loses it all. (In this respect, he’s like Philip Carey in the Maugham story.)
Director Scott Edmiston takes the latter day siren at her word(s) about the surreal nature of nature---and makes that a metaphor for the style of the play. Like Salvator Dali’s surreal paintings, where objects and body parts are distorted and elongated, Edmiston exaggerates the characterizations. Everyone but Charlie’s best friend (Barlow Adamson) talks like they’re on speed. The dialogue races. The characters shout a lot and speeches are hurled about at fever pitch. (Kissel even has a baseball windup for a triple-shout in a fight with his wife.)
As a result of the surrealist feel to the play, we have no one who’s “real,” except the best friend, to identify with. Charlie is clearly Rebeck’s tragic hero but Kissel makes him a coked out, washed up Borscht Belt comic and we just don’t appreciate the stakes he’s risking. He seems like a loser even before he hooks up with the slutty blonde.
Adamson makes the friend a genuinely nice (but flawed) guy so he’s the one I wanted to be happy. Ironically for me, his happiness occurs off-stage, darn it. I would have liked to see how he did it. Julie Jirousek is the more sympathetic of the two women, as Charlie’s long-and I mean long-suffering wife. Jirousek gives her a backbone and a lovely soft side in her last scene. Lyman, on the other hand, is all tart and tease right to the end, in her drop-dead black (spider) frocks and killer heels by Gail Astrid Buckley.
Janie E. Howland’s mirror and steel high rise set sparkles and shines in Karen Perlow’s muted light, set off by Dewey Dellay’s oh-so-hip, pseudo continental, deconstructed Debussy (?) musical score.