Review: ‘The Name of This Play Is Talking Heads’

It doesn't take an expert insider to reveal that countdown shows on VH1 and E! do not represent the highest form of television journalism. Nevertheless Spin magazine writer Marc Spitz, who has appeared on such entertainment specials, is shocked, simply shocked, at the shallowness, manipulation and pandering on these programs.

It doesn’t take an expert insider to reveal that countdown shows on VH1 and E! do not represent the highest form of television journalism. Nevertheless Spin magazine writer Marc Spitz, who has appeared on such entertainment specials, is shocked, simply shocked, at the shallowness, manipulation and pandering on these programs. So he wrote “The Name of This Play is Talking Heads,” a rant disguised as a sketch that pretends to be a short play.

This work, which spins the title of the Talking Heads album, centers on a young music writer’s appearance on the TV show “Top 100 Rockatrocious Moments in Rock History.” But the writer, who is invited on the program to give it some semblance of credibility, is stunned to learn that the show’s music pundits are comics and C-list celebrities parroting the jokes, insults and tabloid headlines fed to them by an amoral producer.

When the journalist balks at participating in the show in the prescribed manner, the pathological producer pulls a gun and terrorizes the writer, making him cower, beg and finally understand and value the importance of escapism, celebrity and the culturally corrupt.

Spitz’s take on this part of the music-TV biz scene is neither interesting, new nor particularly funny; lame lines, sexist cracks and stereotypical characters fill the play’s long 50 minutes, presented spartanly in the tiny basement theater. Andy Goldberg (“The Bomb-itty of Errors”) directs a quintet of actors to perform fast, loud and obviously.

For satire to be effective, it has to have a subject and characters that people don’t already think of as a joke (“rock” and “integrity” haven’t been used in the same sentence in decades), and it must be presented with some freshness, humor or insight. The name of this work is stageatrocious.

The Name of This Play Is Talking Heads

Under St. Marks; 60 seats; $15 top

Production

A Laura Wagner, Kirsten Ames and Jonathan Lisecki presentation in association with Westbeth Theater Center of a play in one act by Marc Spitz. Directed by Andy Goldberg.

Creative

Sets, Skoko Kambara; costumes, David Tabbert; lighting, Rie Ono; production stage manager, Ana Mari de Quesada. Opened, reviewed March 5, 2005. Runs through March 26. Running time: 50 MIN.

Cast

With: Valerie Clift, Brian Reilly, Matt Higgins, James Easton, Brian Normant.
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