There is a hilarious spoof on those very, very self-conscious Actors Studio evenings with the aging, utterly self-involved stage goddess, Ashley Glenn Ashley. The Ashley character segues smoothly into the persona of a severely lonely, hostile woman who looks upon almost everyone she comes into contact with as “idiots.” It is a bittersweet portrait of a woman who lost her son in Vietnam, her husband soon after and now is left with a grown daughter who simply annoys her.
The most delightful character of the evening is Joann, a good-hearted little girl who muses over the sad state of public television’s “Mister Rogers” (“If I don’t watch him, who will?”), then manages to rationalize away the pain of watching all the nice animals be killed and eaten on those wild animal shows.
It was also nice to see a more fully developed “SNL” character, the vacuous former model Pat Stevens, who is thankful for months that have 31 days so she can manage to get through her Vogue magazine. And by way of an onstage video monitor, Dunn is superb as the low-life girlfriend of a serial killer who recognizes that the power of television could make her just as great a celebrity as any movie star. Far less successful is her underdeveloped characterization of the ageless icon of 20th century aesthetics, the white-caped Lily Tremont.
Many of the scene transitions are assisted by the thoroughly wholesome stagehand Shelly (Julie Anna Hines), whose prancing about the stage grows more enthusiastic as the evening moves on. Though the Shelly character offers an interesting counterpoint to Dunn’s characterizations, the device is often a distraction that dilutes the energy and focus of Dunn’s performance.