Tinseltown eats its young in yet another jaded look at Hollywood life written from the inside. Fitfully amusing, but “Sunset Boulevard” or “A Star Is Born” it ain’t.
Three female screenwriters, moping over the assumed lack of opportunities for members of their sex, decide to write a testosterone-heavy action script and submit it under the name of a male “writer” they’ve dreamed up, Adam Gold.
When it comes time for “Gold” to make an appearance, the women — perhaps just after having watched an early episode of “Remington Steele”– decide to hire someone to portray the non-existent scribe in meetings with agents, studio execs, etc.
After auditioning numerous actors, the women select meek shoe salesman Jeffrey (Pepper Sweeney), just off the turnip truck from Nebraska. How naive is he?
“If (the producers) liked the script so much,” he wonders, “why are they going to want rewrites?” (The answer? “Tradition.”) You can probably guess what happens next, and what follows that also unravels fairly predictably.
M.J. Anderson, who wrote the play, has “sold screenplays” to Paramount and New World studios, according to the production notes, and fills her play with references that are knowing, but not too obscure. (The writers predict that they’ll be so reviled by the studios at one point that “We’ll be having lunch with Julia Phillips.”)
Much of the humor, though, is of the high-school skit variety, with the assignment of “funny” names (Agency of the Super Stars, or A.S.S.) being passed off as wit.
Occasionally, Anderson reaches too far for a gag: “I hate broccoli,” one character announces, “I’m a Democrat.” Of course it was George Bush, at last report still a Republican, who caused a stir by hating broccoli.
Susan Forward, Patty McCormack and Linda Doucett star as the three writers, and yes, Forward is the pop psychologist, author (“Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them”) and radio shrink.
All three are personable enough, though McCormack turns in the most convincing readings.
But at the performance reviewed, there was entirely too much dead air between lines. And all three get lots and lots of costume changes, most of the outfits (by Gene Bernhardt) being quite flattering.
Sweeney offers the show’s most rounded performance, as the increasingly ego-ridden “Adam,” and Gregory Thirloway is all over the place in numerous roles , several of them caricatures of real-life personalities. They’re not very deep: Sylvester Stallone is depicted as dumb, Jack Nicholson as leering, and so on.
Craig Stepp plays the screenplay’s hero in several imaginatively staged fantasy scenes, and Jerry Penacoli appears briefly as a would-be “Adam Gold.”
The most consistently amusing performance during the show reviewed was by guest Frank Bonner as a studio chief; the role is taken by several “special celebrity guest” actors during the show’s run.