×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Turnaround

Scripter-helmer Roger Kumble ("Cruel Intentions," "The Sweetest Thing") takes great delight in gnawing on the hand that feeds him. His latest legit effort completes his trilogy of Hollywood tales ("Pay or Play," "D-Girl"), chronicling the sordid life and times of bottom-feeding writer-director Jeff Pelzman.

With:
Gary - Tom Everett Scott Jeff - David Schwimmer Richie - Jonathan Silverman Seth - John DiMaggio Sahara - Jaime Ray Newman

Scripter-helmer Roger Kumble (“Cruel Intentions,” “The Sweetest Thing”) takes great delight in gnawing on the hand that feeds him. His latest legit effort completes his trilogy of Hollywood tales (“Pay or Play,” “D-Girl”), chronicling the sordid life and times of bottom-feeding writer-director Jeff Pelzman. “Friends” regular David Schwimmer, who portrayed Jeff in 1997’s “D-Girl,” once again oozes into the persona of the monumentally self-involved showbiz leech who is quite willing to obliterate his own soul and those of his best friends to salvage his dead end career. This time out, a little less would have been more. Though he has wrought a finely crafted, often hilarious glimpse into the subterranean machinations of Jeff and company, Kumble could strengthen his premise with some judicious editing, especially in the overstated second act.

Blessed with an excellent ensemble that simply wallows in Kumble’s unsavory folk, the first act focuses on the substance abuse tribulations of writer wannabe Gary (Tom Everett Scott). Though he has actually managed to turn out a screenplay, Gary is totally helpless in dealing with the everyday requirements of life.

Gathered at Gary’s Hollywood Hills pad, his lifelong friends Jeff and Richie (Jonathan Silverman) swirl about him in comically cruel rounds of one-upmanship. Jeff’s latest film has just tanked; producer Richie has five “go” projects in the works.

Kumble impressively guides the interaction among the three. It is easy to believe these mid-30s juveniles have known each other for 15 years, needing each other for mutual support but always cognizant of who’s ahead in their ravenous quest for success and affirmation.

Scott exudes the terror-filled bravado of a life-ravaged loser whose nerve ends have become completely exposed. Schwimmer captures perfectly the deceptively low-keyed persona of Jeff, who cannot help but seethe at the strutting, forever name-dropping antics of Richie (played with gleeful abandon by Silverman), whom he considers his intellectual and aesthetic inferior.

Integrated within the Gary/Jeff/Richie machinations is their hilarious encounter with Gary’s hooker-for-the-night Sahara, played with a captivating blend of sensuality and intelligence by Jaime Ray Newman. She reduces all of them to the children they really are. Also effective is the understated portrayal of John DiMaggio as intervention facilitator Seth, who just may be Gary’s last hope for survival.

Two months later, on the day a tenuously clean-and-sober Gary returns to his abode from a rehab facility, the second act shifts the focus to Jeff, who is on the verge of spinning Gary’s screenplay into gold. The only thing standing in his way is a thoroughly transformed Gary, a less than supportive Richie and Seth, who has the temerity to be thinking only about Gary’s wellbeing. Schwimmer’s Jeff is awe-inspiring in his laser-like need to win, no matter what gets sacrificed in the process.

Kumble makes his point with savage clarity but seems so enamored with the action, he pummels the premise to excess. End result is more relief that the bombardment has stopped than a true resolution.

The play is blessed with first-rate production designs, especially Greg Grande’s sumptuous bachelor digs, highlighted by a spectacular view of the Hollywood sign. The lights and sounds of Christie Wright and Eric Pargac, respectively, perfectly underscore the action. And the costumes of Julie Heath do much to reinforce the individual personalities of the ensemble, particularly Schwimmer’s ominously upscale second-act black attire.

Turnaround

Coast Playhouse; 99 seats; $30 top

Production: A Dark Harbor Stories presentation of a play in two acts, written and directed by Roger Kumble.

Creative: Sets, Greg Grande; lights, Christie Wright; sound, Eric Pargac; costumes, Julie Heath. Opened Jan. 22, 2003; reviewed Jan. 25; closes March 2. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Cast: Gary - Tom Everett Scott Jeff - David Schwimmer Richie - Jonathan Silverman Seth - John DiMaggio Sahara - Jaime Ray Newman

More Legit

  • CAROL CHANNING HERSCHFELD. Actress Carol Channing

    Remembering Carol Channing: A Master of Channeling the Power of Personality

    There was only one Carol Channing, and her outsize personality was a source of delight to many fans — and imitators. Gerard Alessandrini’s stage spoof “Forbidden Broadway” had many incarnations over the years, including the 1994 edition when an audience member was selected every evening to come onstage and impersonate Carol Channing with the cast. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda Among Celebrities Remembering Carol Channing

    Viola Davis, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Bernadette Peters are among the slew of celebrities taking to Twitter to pay tribute to late singer, comedienne and actress Carol Channing. Known for her starring roles in Broadway’s “Hello Dolly!” and “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” the legend of the stage and screen died Tuesday at her home in Rancho Mirage, [...]

  • What the Constitution Means to Me

    Listen: How Things Got Scary in 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    For a decade, writer-performer Heidi Schreck had wanted to write a play inspired by her experiences as a teen debater. But over the years the show started to develop into something both urgently political and deeply personal — and things got scary. In the Broadway-bound “What the Constitution Means to Me,” Schreck reimagines her speech-and-debate [...]

  • Carol Channing Dead

    Carol Channing, Star of Broadway's 'Hello, Dolly!' and 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,' Dies at 97

    Larger-than-life musical stage personality Carol Channing, who immortalized the characters of Lorelei Lee in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and Dolly Gallagher Levi in “Hello, Dolly!,” has died. She was 97. Channing died Tuesday of natural causes at her home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful [...]

  • 'What the Constitution Means to Me'

    'What the Constitution Means to Me' Transfers to Broadway

    “What the Constitution Means to Me,” a buzzy Off-Broadway production that counts Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem among its fans, is making the move uptown. The play will come to Broadway this spring for a 12-week limited run at the Helen Hayes Theater. “What the Constitution Means to Me” is one part civics lesson, one [...]

  • Choir Boy review

    Broadway Review: 'Choir Boy'

    Honestly, I was afraid that “Choir Boy” — the sweetly exuberant account of a gifted prep school boy’s coming of age, written by “Moonlight” Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney — would be swallowed up in a Broadway house, after winning us over in an Off Broadway staging in 2013.  But aside from the odd set [...]

  • Jason Robert Brown

    Listen: How Ariana Grande Got Jason Robert Brown to Madison Square Garden

    Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown never expected to find himself performing onstage at Madison Square Garden. But he did — thanks to his pal Ariana Grande. Brown met Grande before she was a superstar, when she was in the 2008 Broadway cast of his teen musical “13.” The two have kept in touch ever since [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content