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A CurtainUp Review
By Julia Furay
Nelson (Frank Harts), a low-level drone at a talent agency, is a slob without much of a life. What he does have, is an endless obsession with a C-list movie actress represented by his agency and a nighttime gig filming violent gang videos meant to scare the kids in the neighborhood. Both of these secret obsessions start to come out and result in trouble for Nelson and his partner in crime, Charlie (the effectively panicky Samuel Ray Gates).
The plot situations turn the already awkward, insecure Nelson into a manic wreck. His fixation on the movie star grows, as do threats from the gang members he's filming. To top it all off Joe (Alexander Alioto), his arrogant boss is onto him and calls Nelson out on every shady move he makes.
It's Alioto's Joe with his constant needling who gives the play much of its comic thrust. When not teasing teases Nelson in a fraternal, jokey manner he's scolding him in his official capacity as boss. Alioto funny and endlessly unctuous, but his performance seems out of step with the other actors. Part of this can be blamed on the play's structure which calls for constant cuts between Nelson's home and his work, with only a few moments of dialogue in one before switching over to the other. Even Lex Liang's fairly realistic scenic design draws a fuzzy line between home and office. But, while the office scenes create a sitcom-tinged aura, director Kip Fagan stages the Nelson/Charlie scenes with increasing paranoia and volume, with a lot of shouting about their dangerous situation. Unfortunately, the short, intense scenes are continually diluted by office sequences, which does little to generate the necessary spiraling sense of menace. The inevitable violent conclusion somehow seems unwarranted.
Though the play never really gains altitude, Harts admirably portrays the title character. At home with Charlie he exuberantly unleashes his manias babbling on and on about his movie star. His obsessive vigor is disturbing, yet almost childlike in the way it persists. When at the office his energy turns inward as he's caught stalking the object of his obsession. This shift from wild exuberance, to nervous mumbling makes for a nice balance between the two halves of the play— a balance missing from the rest of the play.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide