Posts Tagged ‘Adam McKay’

An Accidental Rave

As a wannabe writer  in Los Angeles who also dabbles in critique, it’s hard not to go see a local theatre production of a really good original play by a really good young playwright, and not get jealous—especially when the playwright is sitting directly behind you. It is even harder to try and write about said jealousy of said playwright in a Hollywood coffee house when you just ordered your vegan chicken sandwich and she walks in the front door, causing your fingers to scramble down the touch-pad mouse of your laptop in time to minimize her headshot displayed overtly on your monitor (not kidding). The name of my apparent stalker is Leslye Headland, and her latest play, which she also directed, is called The Accidental Blonde, an IAMA Theatre production that opened at the Elephant Theatre on October 8th and runs until November 7th.

But back to my jealousy—a fine emotion to cradle when by your lonesome in a dark theatre, critic’s writing pad on the ready, but not when you’re within they eye-shot of the object of your jealousy. Self-consciousness, at this point, takes charge. And so it was with me on a Friday night performance of The Accidental Blonde, amidst a generous theatre crowd, as I sat and read about the woman whose eyes I imagined looming over me like the glowing eye-glasses billboard in The Great Gatsby.

Leslye, as I nervously found out, was not only an accomplished playwright but a hard-working and ambitious one (fuck that). The Accidental Blonde is the sixth installment in her “Seven Deadly Plays” series, each one dealing with a different sin, and all within the context of a young, modern-day scenario (honestly, what kind of asshole doesn’t just give up after the first two?) Not only that, but she currently works on the FX show Terriers, and is in the development phase of creating a pilot for HBO based on Julie Klausner’s memoir I Don’t Care About Your Band, as produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (both over-the-hill, if you ask me).

The house-lights dimmed (finally, as I could then efficiently scribble down my biting critiques in relative anonymity), and the stage lights went up on two women, Veronica and Lucy, as played respectively by Katie Lowes and Sarah Utterback. What followed was a tightly-scribed dual monologue scene—Veronica at her therapist and Lucy into the off-stage camera of a reality cooking show starring her. While Veronica complains about her obsessive envy over her one-time roommate’s—Lucy’s—newfound fame, Lucy shoots off take after take of practiced on-screen “confessionals,” each one more falsely modest than the next. What’s interesting about the scene is that the two could almost be responding to one another in their separate speeches, yet not in a forced, showy kind of way. The scene does what, in my mind, all first scenes should do: it establishes the tone and theme of the entire play in a succinct, grabbing fashion. Five minutes in, one could already name the deadly sin to be explored throughout: envy.

I have to admit, at this point, I figured the dual-dialogue was a bit of a gimmick. I’d seen it done before many-a-times—I’d even tried it myself on occasion—and one introductory vignette done in this style would most certainly prove to be unnecessary by the end, right?

Not right. Often what separates a gimmick from a genuine point-of-view is simply commitment. And whether I liked it or not, Leslye committed. The entire play, with minor exceptions, was done in split-screen, or split-stage. It could very well have been two plays, one concerning Lucy and her venture into reality-show stardom; the other dealing with Veronica and her overwhelming dissatisfaction with her “normal” life as mirrored through the paparazzi lens of her ex-roommate.

I hate to go too much into plot detail—you should really see it for yourself—but suffice to say, about halfway through, I completely forgot Leslye was sitting right behind me. The right-brain/left-brain conceit bounced back and forth like a tennis match, and when, later on in the play, the two halves began to mesh, began to share props and glances, I was reminded of David Foster Wallace at his best, when it seems as though multiple thought patterns are coinciding, even reacting against one another.

To pull off this type of stunt requires more than the occasional Juno-style quip—and there were a few. It takes good direction, and even better acting. Katie Lowes, especially, reveals herself to be ugly in the part of Veronica, something not many actors can do with class. Even when Lowes straight-up masturbates on stage, she keeps it quiet (in the grander sense of the word). She plays the reality of the character rather than that of the actress, which is an incredibly difficult task in front of  alive audience. Sarah Utterback, too, aside from the small gripe I have with her on-stage cooking skills (I’ve worked in kitchens), is quite believable as a bewildered fifteen-minute famer coming to grips with the ticking clock on her celebrity. I was also impressed with Dean Cechvala, the slacker Editor of his father’s magazine, who manages to extinguish the superficial outer-layer of Lucy’s personality, at once making her more human, as well as humiliated.

When the house lights came up once again at the end of the play, I was left with an odd sense of nostalgia for my pre-show envy. The show was terrific and more than worthy of the applause it garnered, but when I looked back at Leslye once more before exiting the theatre, I didn’t feel like writing about her. Because I knew I could only really say good job.

- By Joshua Morrison

IAMA Theatre Presents The Accidental Blonde runs until November 7th at the Elephant Theatre in Hollywood. For more information, please visit www.iamatheatre.com.

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