By John Quinn
Imagine the plight of the legendary soul who asked a Maine resident for directions, only to be told “Well, yah can’t get theah from heah.” The Critic found himself similarly unsettled as he tried to reach Go Comedy! in Ferndale on the weekend of the Woodward Dream Cruise. There sat the theater on Nine Mile, crouched behind protective barriers designed to prevent maniac theater critics from t-boning the beauties passing on The Strip. But the congruence of the two events set me to thinking about the makings of a classic car and classic comedy. Here’s the break-down to my test drive of the wickedly satirical “Hollywood Positive.”
A classic car need a good design. “Hollywood Positive” has a design by playwrights Alara Ceri and Steven Karageanes, local talents who have found careers in LA. Their script isn’t radically different, much the same as all cars seem to display the same low-nose, high-tail, aerodynamic features. The difference is in the details; for “Hollywood Positive,” the beauty is in how familiar stereotypes can be bent to the playwrights’ will. And everyone likes a pleasant surprise in design, like enough cup holders. Here, it’s an unexpected twist to the ending.
A good plot needs to be as solid as an auto undercarriage. In observing the old adage, “Write what you know,” Ceri might be writing a little autobiographically. One would hope not. The trials and tribulations of her plucky heroine shouldn’t happen to nice people. But she does portray her protagonist, Ally.
After years of amateur theater, Ally takes her MSU theater degree to Los Angeles, despite the doubts of her parents. A fish-out-of-Great Lakes-water, she’s plagued by a disingenuous roommate, phobic-ridden TV guys, a horny agent and talentless acting coach. These screwballs and many others are played by Dan Brittain, Genevieve Jona, Charlie Newhart, Brian Papandrea, Maggie O’Reilly, Vince Sabatini and Julia Schroeder. Performance is not Ferrari standard, but has the earthy reliability of a V-8 Camaro. What’s missing is the “roar.” While Go Comedy’s performance space is one of the most intimate around, the cast is competing with the air conditioning system, and conversational tones on stage aren’t carrying out to the whole audience. Projection is to theater what horsepower is to motoring.
Handling is an important part of a car’s appeal. So what happened when director Steven Karageanes got behind the wheel of Steven Karageanes’ play?
The playwright who directs his or her own work walks a fine line. The artist is not necessarily the best person to interpret his work for the public. The magic of theater is how a play becomes so “round” as more artists contribute to the endeavor. Here we have the project moving in the right direction, but the engine is stuttering.
“Hollywood Positive” is composed of short vignettes, separated by blackouts. Late in the play its structure loosens, becoming almost scattershot, and blackouts interrupt the natural flow of narration. With only four chairs as scenery, a segue should suffice in many instances. That would set apart the truly hysterical “star turns,” a running gag in which each cast member solos as a hapless actor auditioning for a bored, unseen casting director. While these scenes appear to be inside jokes for the “industry,” everybody can appreciate the comedy.
The 2014 “Hollywood Positive” is in showrooms – sorry, at Go Comedy! for a limited time. While not a family vehicle, it will hold a certain charm for the funkier set (is anybody “funky” any more, or am I just a fogey?). Think along the lines of a Kia Soul or a Fiat 500. Oh – Troy Street, a block south of Nine Mile, gives access to parking for your Studebaker.
Go Comedy! Improv Theater
261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale
8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21
8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22
90 minutes; no intermission