BWW Reviews: World Premiere Comedy IT'S THE BIZ Pokes Fun at Hollywood in the 80's
Nearly everyone who lives in Los Angeles is fascinated with the entertainment industry and wants to somehow be a part of it. To the outsider, show business is the sexiest, most glamorous of pursuits. For those whom working within the Industry is an everyday, workaday reality, there is quite another perspective of the craziness the pursuit of fame and fortune, financing and distribution, can bring.
IT'S THE BIZ is set in Hollywood in 1983 when money, sex, abuse-inviting substances and power flowed like rivers. It's also a time when agents and casting directors would still meet with the talented and the beautiful star-struck hopefuls face-to-face, to potentially discover and tap that next bonanza of big bucks.
The plot centers around Wally Bryant (Kelly Gullett), an established and influential agent in this world and his new young associate, Marty (Paul Mischeshin), who really wants to be a screenwriter (because he can be anonymous) and sees the agency as an entry point to getting there. Gullett and Mischeshin play off each other well on the small set, probably the same size as a lot of small talent agencies really were back in those pre-computer, pre-cell phone days when the office phone was your lifeline to the world. Mischeshin looks as if he is the embodiment of Clark Kent, ready to save the world if given the chance.
Both men are really good talent agents who manage to find the genuinely accomplished, even as they trudge through a swamp of puffed-up egos, artistic temperaments, personality disorders and frantic deadlines. Along the way, we meet many of Wally's clients, all of whom are nut cases in their own unique ways. His former employee Deedee (Dyan Kane) is a loose canon with her biker henchman (Brice Harris) who repeatedly attempt to get money she perceives Wally owes her. Then there is writer, Ted (Jeff Sable), whose latest script is being torn apart on set. And Linda (Julie Shelton) has just returned from shooting a documentary film in Central America but cannot find a distributor for it, so she turns to Wally for help. She has one of the best lines in the show when describing her film work: "There is only one rule - art needs to touch the heart and illuminate the soul." I think that is true for every artist in all forms of expression.
And of course there is temperamental actor Frank (Hunter Smit) who cannot get along with his older leading lady and wants off the project. Owing his father a favor, Wally agrees to meet with Robin (Michael Sotkin), a marginally talented musician who wants to start up a group called Robin and the 7 Hoods. Wally gets a band together and lines up a showcase at the Palomino Club in the Valley, a well-known country music spot. But things do not go well and the gig falls apart when Robin suffers from stage fright and cannot go on.
And of course, both Wally and Marty get into intimate relationships with clients, not a best-business practice. Rachel Amanda Bryant plays both Jill and Mia, one a talented actress and the other a Hollywood party girl just looking for some fun any way she can find it, on screen or not. Bryant is a joy to watch as the two radically different women who get involved with both men, in the office and the boudoir!
Mischeshin displays great emotional as well as physical character development, effectively showing how young naïve Marty grows up quickly as he sees the effects of Wally's destructive actions on the business and the people that Wally cares about the most, finally learning he has the talent to make it on his own.
Michael Grossman is the playwright. An accomplished writer, he has made his living writing and editing for several different organizations. He trained with Emmy-winning script-writer Alfred Brenner. This is Michael's first play and it could use a bit of tightening up so the scenes flow more smoothly.
Paul Fredrix directs, sometimes hindered by the small stage, as the characters have many scenes which seem a bit cramped at times. But the look is pure 1980's when anyone with a desk phone and a tiny office could pass themselves off as being in the Biz - and fortunes could be made or lost in an instant.
This is a visiting production at Promenade Playhouse, home of Promenade Acting Conservatory, www.promenadeplayhouse.com
IT'S THE BIZ World Premiere engagement of a new comedy. Written by Michael Grossman. Directed by Paul Fredrix. Produced by Michael Abramson and Patrice Barrie. Presented by Croft Productions.