Who hasn’t fantasized, at least once, about having their name indelibly stamped in a star on Hollywood Boulevard? Peter Wren’s new slice-of-life comedy delves into the hopes and dreams, successes and failures of the haves and have-nots of Hollywood. Assuming the audience can get past the distinct telepic nature and the overly long script, Wren has moments in which his words transcend his tendency toward preachy overstatement and achieve a lyric, poetic quality that shows great promise.
Wren’s greasy spoon diner is a haven for the nearly homeless Jenny (Kirsten Getchell) who sleeps under boxes on the sidewalk and earns her food and $ 5 a day by sweeping up and answering the cafe’s pay phone for the dive’s owner Sid (Augie Amarino).
The object of her affection is Sid’s cook, the high-strung Jerry (Jason Oliver). Cafe regulars include the ball-busting, beautiful lesbian travel agent Janet (Kathryn Zimmer); her two assistants (Sonya Stephens and Carra Robertson); self-consumed egotist machismo soap star Cliff (Patrick Brady); hopeful young writer from rural America Jack (Steve Eckholdt); and a Bible-quoting, wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet (Wren).
All the characters have a dream, be it carnal (Janet wants a beauty in the South Pacific, and Jerry wants to return to the Mississippi where he left his first love) or career (Cliff looks for recognition as a “real” actor, while Jack hopes to pen the great American novel).
Sid, with pessimistic regularity, shoots down each character with a reality check whenever they slip into the ethereal mode, though he too harbors a wish to sell the cafe and depart on a round-the-world cruise.
Throughout, Jenny’s Cassandra-like ramblings provide gentle insights into humanity, life and God, as do the hurtful-edged comments of the panhandling vet. In the end, many of the dreams are realized in Wren’s clumsily pulled-together second act — life just simply doesn’t neatly tie its loose ends together this way.
The production sports several noteworthy performances. Oliver’s offbeat young man looking to the past for the solution to his present is a likable blend of rebel without a cause and boy next door. Eckholdt’s provincial, wide-eyed optimism remains fresh in spite of some chokingly sophomoric lines.
Mixing chip-on-the-shoulder feminism with a heart of gold she loathes to reveal, Zimmer layers Janet with adroit complexities. The remainder of the cast performs more than adequately.
Pacing isn’t director John Terlesky’s strong suit but character development is, and he molds his cast into well-defined individuals rooted naturally in the actor playing the part.
Steve Harris’ set succinctly captures the ambiance of the not particularly inviting air of most Hollywood Boulevard diners, while Walter Harrison’s lights effectively reflect the time shifts.
“Walk of Fame Cafe” may be real, but the java is weak. And the malady that affects most theater pieces that aspire to TV or film, makes this 2 1/2 hours of naturalism only slightly more interesting than sitting outside Prizzi’s Pizza and watching the world go by.