“Heart of Jade,” a farce about two Hollywood-bound sisters who find themselves in the most highly improbable plot situations, is an inventive production that pokes fun at the overachieving ‘80’s with a a deft touch, along a wink and a nod.
Written and directed by Gip Hoppe, Co-Artistic Producer of Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, the madcap romp offers witty dialogue, entertaining characters, and snap-crackle-and pop timing through Saturday at the Black Box Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts. Hoppe, best known for “Jackie: An American Life,” describes “Jade” as “a wild, whirlwind journey of the go-go 1980’s as seen through the prism of overheated and oversexed trash fiction from some of the worst writers of all time.” To write the play, he immersed himself in the novels of Judith Krantz, Danielle Steele, Jackie Collins, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Jacqueline Susann, and in the process, “nearly destroyed my love for reading.”
The action sweeps through New York City boardrooms and Hollywood back lots as Jade Snow, a naive girl from Wellfleet, becomes a movie star, while her jealous, seething step sister, Amber, schemes to overtake her famous sister’s celebrity status. Along the way, sundry, zany characters appear with cast members taking on multiple roles. Hoppe chose wisely when casting. Stacey Fischer as Jade could not be more wide-eyed and innocent, which she splendidly contrasts during her spiral downward into drugs, sex, and tunes from the “me decade.” John Kuntz is right on target as the over-the-hill screen goddess, Sprinkles Galore, as well as the numerous other roles he plays to campy perfection. Who knew that one person could walk, talk and mug in half a dozen different personas, frequently with only a few second’s transition between characters.
Marianna Bassham as the manipulative, power hungry sister Amber, Rick Park as the smarmy, coke-snorting, film producer Clint Roderick, Jan Davidson as the brassy, pushy, “get the story at any cost” reporter Rhona Barabas, and Nathaniel McIntyre as the brainless, oversexed department store executive Billy Dubone turn in consistently, comical performances, both in their main roles as well as the various over-the-top characters that pepper the plot.
In addition to the cast, Hoppe also assembled a talented and capable creative team. Ellen LeBow’s clever Puppet Silhouettes - on the lines of a shadow play - add humor to the production by mimicking the stage action, punctuating the dialogue or visually creeping into the minds of the characters. The costume design by Gail Astrid Buckley is a bull’s eye replica of the glitzy, outlandish attire for that decade. And Dan Joy’s set design - yellow brick road doubling for a strip of celluloid, lots of green for money and power - visually pulls together the twisted sub-plots.
The second act could use some help in order to sustain the manic quality of the first act. But the laughs are still plentiful in this amusing romp into the slapstick, Cape Cod sunset.