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Neil LaBute’s
The Money Shot
Sunday @ 3PM
Tuesday @ 7PM
Wednesday @ 7PM
Thursday @ 8PM
Friday @ 8PM
Saturday @ 2Pm & 8PM
Through October 19, 2014
The Lucille Lortel Theatre

Presented by MCC Theater.

Directed by Terry Kinney.

With: Fred Weller, Callie Thorne, Elizabeth Reaser, Gia Crovatin

Reviewed by Frank J. Avella

Steve: “Yeah, lotta history in this town! That’s what I love about Hollywood--not like New York or places like that. London. I mean, this town is just so fucking steeped in history...”

Three out of four characters agree with Steve when he very seriously makes this statement in Neil LaBute’s hilarious, destined-to-delight-and-divide new play, “The Money Shot.”

This piece is a return to scathing form for LaBute and as much as I enjoyed his last two “reasons,” I was bowled over by the madcap satire at play on the Lucille Lortel stage. This could make a great companion piece with David Cronenberg’s new film “Maps To the Stars.” See a matinee of that unrelentingly brutal film first, then take in LaBute’s more playful, if wicked dark comedy.

Of course this play will have its haters. I’ve already read some “respected” journalists dismissing it outright. Don’t listen to them unless you want to miss one of the funniest comedies of the year.

LaBute has made quite a few films in Hollywood so his admittedly heightened vision comes direct from the La-la-land trenches where superficiality, self-absorption, and faux causes rule the land and new faces on old faces are becoming the norm (when is someone going to call out how horrible most of these stars look when they overdo the plastic surgery, Botox, etc.???)

The setting is the Beverly Hills home of ostentatious movie-star extraordinaire Karen (Elizabeth Reaser), the most egotistical woman in California—okay, no, but certainly in the Top 200. She was once nominated for an Oscar for “Child of Tomorrow,” but then she came out as a lesbian and, gulp, got older. Now, when she’s not endorsing every expensive brand that will have her name attached, she’s doing everything in her power to work, which means taking on a role in “Jackhammer,” the edgy new film by a much-lauded Euro-director. Why is it edgy, you ask? Can’t tell you that, would spoil the surprise, but suffice to say it’s the reason the characters have all gathered together.

Karen’s co-star in “Jackhammer,” Steve (Fred Weller), is a completely vapid action-star who is also getting on in years (over 40 means kaput in—I was going to say LaBute’s Hollywood, but let’s face it—Hollywood!). I don’t want to say Steve is dumb but think Keanu Reeves crossed with Nicolas Cage crossed with a cute donkey. Steve arrives with his gorgeous, blonde girl-child, Missy (Gia Crovatin), who happens to be half Steve’s age, and no rocket scientist either—although she will prove to be much smarter than she’s initially given credit for being. Steve and Missy have been married for six months and are already in couple’s therapy.

Rounding out the dinner party quartet is Karen’s egghead sig other, Bev (Callie Thorne), who looks down at everyone and everything that has to do with the movie business. She’s the reality-check-PC-know-it-all gal whose judgy attitude proves a bit taxing.

“The Money Shot” is played at a high energy, deliberately stylized level by it’s awesome cast—each have their own way of giving us surreal based on their over-the-top characters.

Reaser is by far the grandest diva and plays the shit out of her part. She makes Dianne Weist in “Bullets Over Broadway” look like a mouse. It’s a leap-over-the-edge performance that works magnificently.

Weller rocks the bad-boy-wannabe, man’s man-wannabe, actor-wannabe, homophobic, racist, misogynistic but loveable mess of a product of the entertainment industry. From his ridiculously funny like deliveries to his movie-studied-straight way of walking, Weller is playing the polar opposite of his “Mothers and Sons” part last season and proving there’s nothing he can’t take on and nail!

Whether trying to sneak food into her mouth or recreate her high school musical moment that blends cheerleading skills with Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” to the tune of Shakira, Crovatin is an unhinged wonder. Crovatin finds the soul of this creature and makes us fall in love with her and want to protect her and then realize, she can protect herself.

And Thorne brings a sassiness to Bev that is most welcome.

Terry Kinney provides swift and tight direction.

And, did I mention, it’s uproariously funny?

There is a politically incorrect speech Steve has that involves Stevie Wonder at a restaurant that had me in stitches So did Steve’s bumbleheaded debates, which involve Bing Crosby’s, parenting skills and whether Belgian’s are European. These made me think of Washington, D.C. and how current Republicans love to make up facts.

Steve likes to say, “Agree to disagree,” even when he is wrong, which is all of the time; just like members of the Tea party. But just because you believe something to be true doesn’t make it true no matter how many times you repeat it.

LaBute’s savage vision keeps pissing off some critics and audience members and delighting others. That means he’s doing something right. Satirizing Hollywood (and Washington for that matter) requires a heavy-hand otherwise why bother?

For tickets visit: Ovationtix.com or call (212) 352-3101

The Lucille Lortel Theatre | 121 Christopher Street, NYC

 





 

 


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