BWW Review: DRUNKS at Whim Productions
Kevin King's Whim Productions presents local playwright Pete Bakely's dark, outrageous, sex comedy "Drunks" at MTH Theater's Stage II on level III of Crown Center. Whim's occasional offerings have become well known as shows that venture right up to the edge of propriety, then step over the edge, and through the looking glass. "Drunks" tumbles down Wonderland's hollow tree (to an imagined La La Land) while chasing a foul mouthed, alcoholic, drug addled, sex obsessed Mad Hatter .
"Drunks" is expanded from Bakely's 2014 Fringe Festival one act play of the same name. Whim calls it a re-mounting of the original production. Re-Mounting is an appropriate description. Mounting and re-mounting is a lot of what the audience sees during this 120 minute two act complete with the actors in various states of undress, sickness, and bondage. Deletion of the four letter Anglo Saxon word for all that mounting might reduce the length of the entire performance by a third. The penultimate orgy scene is gratefully performed mainly offstage during the intermission.
Clearly, "Drunks" remains in that ethereal developmental stage that can last for many years before a script becomes fully honed. Playwright Bakely explores his view of how the sausage (another unfortunate word) gets made in the Hollywood film factory and his opinion of the people who operate the sausage machine. These folks don't have many redeeming characteristics.
"Drunks" takes place in a less than stellar hotel suite located probably somewhere in the beige environs of the San Fernando Valley. The play opens with Midwestern screenwriter/ college professor Don (Curtis Smith) seated center stage on a couch and bent over a laptop. Producer Kenzie (Emma Carter) paces back and forth with her "Hello Kitty" mobile telephone to her ear.
Kenzie is panicked. This weekend's overnight working session has been scheduled to hash out final details on Don's screenplay. Financing is approved. Principal photography is about to begin. The film's two lead actors (both of whom have script approval) have not yet arrived.
First actor to arrive is sexy 30s movie star Cindy (Rebecca Ralstin). Fellow male lead actor Matt (Kyle Dyck) shows up late. He is supposedly caught on the 405 freeway. Kenzie is a first time solo producer. She has her orders from above. The script is to be completed and agreed to this weekend. She is tough and potty mouthed. Phones and car keys are collected from all participants. Work is the order of the day and night. Each has something to gain and something to lose. Kenzie leaves them to it. We have just passed the dramatic high point for productivity.
No sooner does Kenzie disappear from sight, than Matt rushes somewhere to collect a huge stash of beer and booze. Cindy rips into her drag along suitcase for a maxi bar full of booze, fine wine, and a box of grocery store wine complete with built in spigot. Don already has a single bottle of whiskey visible. These people obviously have something in common. It should probably start at a group meeting where the opening words are: "Hi, My name is ______________________, and I'm an alcoholic.
Don starts out wanting to do the job at hand. He pulls a bottle of Adderall from his pocket and offers samples. Adderall is kind of No-Doze on steroids. He wants to get these revisions done and the filming started.
Our two lead actors have a different agenda. They start with a drinking game, progress to a little weed, and a whole bunch of coke. Matt produces a thumb drive on which is saved an extended video of Cindy and himself enjoying various and sundry, twisted, graphic sexual acts.
Each actor tries to affect the process in his or her own way. Matt is afraid his next role will not showcase him adequately. He is afraid he is not good enough. Cindy has just passed from the starlet stage into having to actually act. It turns out she has the ability and training, but she must find a project that adequately showcases her skills. Cindy has secretly bankrolled the film, but neither Kenzie or Matt are aware she is the ultimate boss. The sex, drugs, and booze are avocations. Matt uses them as a crutch. Cindy just likes doing it.
Kenzie reappears in Act II to help the show struggle to some sort of sensible resolution in the aftermath of the Act I finale and crazed intermission bacchanal. There are moments of intended funny dialog, sight gags, just plain gagging, coarse language, sexual innuendo, sexual activity, infidelity, drug use, bondage, partial nudity, and bi-sexuality framed against a screed on the state of the entertainment business. There is an attempt to humanize the various deficiencies suffered by the characters and reach some kind of empathy with them.
The actors struggle gamely on. Kyle Dyck at Matt looks like the typical "B" film actor. He would work in the real world, but probably not at the first level. Rebecca Ralstin as Cindy is a pretty redhead who might someday actually find herself in the position the play proposes. Emma Carter as Kenzie plays someone who might once have wanted to be an actor, but now will somehow end up in the business end of the entertainment world. Curtis Smith as Don is easily imagined as the screenwriter he plays. Director Katie Gilchrist has faced an uphill battle and has attained the crest afforded by this particular pile of words.
"Drunks" continues on March 24 on Stage II at the MTH Theater in Crown Center.
Photo courtesy of Whim Productions.