From the instant he drops from his mother’s womb to the moment he is summoned up to the pearly gates, is an actor pre-programmed to always search for his spotlight? According to playwright Frederick Stroppel, Actor (David Michie), not unlike Pavlov’s dog, has no choice but to relentlessly sniff his way through life seeking the ultimate truth — stardom. Though the momentum of this insightful farce occasionally bogs down in its efforts to spoof almost every aspect of showbiz, Stroppel, aided immensely by director Parker Swanson and an outstanding ensemble, has penned an entertaining, jaundiced sojourn through the rise and fall of one monumentally self-centered performer.
As his life is slowly ebbing away at an old folks home, Actor is confronted by the love of his youth, Taylor (Trace Turville), who asks, “Is there anything you regret? You know, like never sustaining a relationship, never having a family, never creating a real life for yourself?” After a moment’s reflection, Actor responds, “I never did any Shakespeare. I think I would have been good at it.” It is a perfect summation to an existence devoid of substance, devoted to using people and relationships like a series of skipping stones across the treacherous rapids of Hollywood.
Stroppel (staff writer for HBO series “A Little Curious”) certainly knows the path Actor is traveling. The playwright mines a plethora of satiric gems as callow young Actor ventures to New York, encountering a slew of psyche-shaping experiences: classes with an anti-establishment drama teacher (Greg Lee), a brief fling with a hard-bitten, method-indoctrinated actress (Salli Saffioti), a failed job in a children’s theater production of Humpty Dumpty, his first legit job, obtained by sexually servicing its egotistical British star, Sir John (Lee) , and his romance with artistically idealistic Taylor.
By the time Actor has heard the call of Hollywood, he has become a seasoned cad, discarding Taylor, bedding TV entertainment reporter Tally (Saffioti) to hype his career and marrying lesbian superstar Cassidy (Turville) to help him make that final push to the top. Stroppel exhibits equal insight and wit chronicling Actor’s rapid descent as he eventually suffers the slings and arrows of bad films, a receding hairline, an expanding waistline and an endless horizon of burnt bridges.
Michie exudes an intriguing, guileless persona that makes Actor an almost innocent participant to all the happenings in his life. When confronted about quitting a New York-based theater company to seek his fortune in Hollywood, he states in all innocence, “There’s theater in L.A.”
Turville is truly poignant as the adoring Taylor who can think of no better life than to be married to Actor, doing “relevant theater” for the rest of their lives. She is equally effective as the hard-driving Cassidy, who considers her “marriage of convenience” to Actor as a tiresome but necessary sacrifice in her unrelenting efforts to remain a superstar.
Lee is outstanding in a variety of roles, particularly in his brief but hilarious turn as Actor’s Dad, who is convinced his son would find happiness in life as a homosexual. Also memorable is Holly Kaplan as the Stanislavsky-laden director who fires Actor from his Humpty Dumpty role for not knowing what kind of egg he is.