×

The Idiot Box

Michael Elyanow's TV parody "The Idiot Box" focuses on a group of somewhat familiar friends, a microcosm for the macrocosm of 50-plus years of TV comedy tropes we all know by heart.

With:
Chloe - Anna Khaja Fiona - Tisha Terrasini-Banker Stephanie - Amanda Weier Veronica - Corena Chase Mark - Kelly Van Kirk Omar - Joe Holt Connor - David Castellani Billy - Dominic Spillane Raymond - Conor Lane Harvey - Rod Sweitzer

Michael Elyanow’s TV parody “The Idiot Box” focuses on a group of somewhat familiar friends, a microcosm for the macrocosm of 50-plus years of TV comedy tropes we all know by heart. The play neatly defines the parameters of the sitcom world, from the “wacky mix-ups” that would never occur in life to the almost metronomic recurrence of a laugh track, and then cleverly explodes them. The Open Fist Theater Company’s West Coast premiere production of this witty, audacious work succeeds brilliantly with Jeremy B. Cohen’s tight direction and an excellent cast.

Six friends share a very large apartment in the Big Apple, and although truly odd coincidences and misunderstandings bedevil them every day, they are essentially very happy. Fiona (Tisha Terrasini-Banker) is a ditzy kook, Mark (Kelly Van Kirk) a mischievous paramedic, Chloe (Anna Khaja) a sympathetic caregiver, Billy (Dominic Spillane) a horndog model, Stephanie (Amanda Weier) a romance novelist and her husband, Connor (David Castellani), the joker of the group.

Everything is hijinx as usual until one day Chloe sees a performance of “The Three Sisters” and meets the nonsitcom person Omar (Joe Holt); with that, real life begins to intrude upon this self-contained world. The upbeat scene-change music goes away; Billy’s new conquest, Ramona, turns out to be Raymond (Conor Lane); Fiona’s boyfriend, Harvey (Rod Sweitzer), gets called up to serve in Iraq; and single-episode characters like Aussie “dog-shusherer” Veronica (Corena Chase) stick around longer than expected as Mark’s perfect world implodes.

Khaja brings a sense of genuine emotion to Chloe, and the scene in which she literally deconstructs her reality is grounded by her rising anger at having been deceived for so long. Holt adds a low-key charm to the proceedings as the one “real” character, and Chase is appropriately vivacious as a one-note-joke comedy character that runs smack into drama when she’s attacked by one of the “friends.”

Terrasini-Banker is perfect as Fiona, and the moment in which she reveals her character’s true intelligence and drops the ditzy act and voice is hilarious. Weier and Castellani are fine but struggle with one of the less compelling side plots, and Van Kirk is good but weighed down in a role that delivers a lot of exposition to wrap up the plot and an ineffective 9/11-based motivation. Spillane is touchingly believable as the ladies’ man tentatively exploring a homosexual relationship. Lane and Sweitzer are both strong in smaller roles.

Cohen stages the show with propulsive energy but doesn’t neglect the subtle moments, such as the confused look on Connor’s face when his punchlines aren’t followed by the obnoxious laugh track. Donna Marquet’s expansive set looks like the real sitcom deal, and Lindsay Jones’ original music accurately re-creates the bullying enforced glee of TV comedy scene-change segues.

The Idiot Box

Open Fist Theater; 80 seats; $20 top

Production: An Open Fist Theater Company presentation of a play in two acts by Michael Elyanow. Directed by Jeremy B. Cohen.

Crew: Sets, Donna Marquet; costumes, Alex Jaeger; lighting, J. Kent Inasy; sound, Lindsay Jones; production stage manager, Henry Lide. Opened, reviewed July 13, 2007. Runs through Aug. 25. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Cast: Chloe - Anna Khaja Fiona - Tisha Terrasini-Banker Stephanie - Amanda Weier Veronica - Corena Chase Mark - Kelly Van Kirk Omar - Joe Holt Connor - David Castellani Billy - Dominic Spillane Raymond - Conor Lane Harvey - Rod Sweitzer

More Scene

  • Angler Los Angeles

    Angler Is L.A.'s Major New Seafood Destination

    San Francisco transplant Angler is set to make a major splash in Los Angeles, as Joshua Skenes’ innovative seafood-focused restaurant opens in the somewhat unlikely location of the Beverly Center. Angler is the latest and the most ambitious restaurant to join a fresh crop of spots, including Cal Mare and Yardbird, on the recently refurbished [...]

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler Set for Special Performance at New York Pride (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler is set to appear at New York’s Pride Main Event this Saturday (June 29) at the Javits Center. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, she’ll perform a song accompanied by composer Marc Shaiman, of “Hairspray” and “Mary Poppins Returns” fame. Her stage time is set for 11 p.m. Also scheduled to [...]

  • Magic Johnson, Larry Bird

    Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Robin Roberts Honored at 2019 NBA Awards

    The NBA went Hollywood on Monday night, mixing basketball legends with a star-studded list of presenters including Samuel L. Jackson, Tiffany Haddish and “This Is Us” star Justin Hartley at the 2019 NBA Awards. Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal hosted the third annual award show, which aired live on TNT, kicking things off with a surprise [...]

  • Naomi Watts and Gretchen Carlson'The Loudest

    ‘The Loudest Voice’ Stars Naomi Watts, Russell Crowe Talk Roger Ailes

    Roger Ailes may have been the force behind the creation of Fox News, but the late newsman’s legacy will forever be his atrocious sexual harassment of several of the network’s female anchors and producers. Showtime premiered its new limited series “The Loudest Voice,” which chronicles Ailes’ rise and fall, on Monday night at the Paris [...]

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on Taylor Swift's 'Calm Down' Backlash

    When Taylor Swift released her “You Need to Calm Down” music video, it seemed like every member of the LGBTQ in Hollywood was included — except for Billy Eichner. “I’m still not gay enough for Taylor Swift — or too gay — I don’t know what it is,” Eichner joked at Variety’s Power of Pride [...]

  • Bebe Rexha

    Mumford and Sons, Sting, Ciara, Bebe Rexha Light Up Cannes Lions

    There was no shortage of excellent music at the 2019 edition of Cannes Lion. The international gathering of creatives drew top music brands – among them: Spotify, Live Nation, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM/Pandora, VEVO and Universal Music Group – and a slew of well-known acts to stages across the Croissette, to villas above the city and onto [...]

  • Patrick Wilson

    Patrick Wilson, Mckenna Grace on Scary Stories From 'Annabelle Comes Home' Set

    Tales of spooky occurrences on the sets of horror movies like “The Exorcist” and “Poltergeist” have circulated for years, and it looks like “The Conjuring” franchise is following in their footsteps in that regard. The cast of “Annabelle Comes Home” shared their unnerving stories from set at the film’s premiere on Thursday night at the Regency [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content