By Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Tim Williams
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL
Three hours of Kafka, with modern dance and no intermission? That’s the sort of theater that draws 12 paying customers and there had better be an open bar for the press. But someone cast Hollywood fire power, and while Kafka’s undiscovered script might best have remained undiscovered, there’s funding and that’s all that matters. Rehearsals are underway, and Harry (Josh Geohagan) understudies for medium time movie star Jake (Brian Brightman). Jake and the unseen “Bruce” are the stars that draw in busloads of blue hairs from Jersey, and under no circumstances will Harry get on stage. But he will get paid. And Jake might leverage his recent film success into a starring role in a better film, and frazzled stage manger Roxanne (Michele Feren) might get over Harry dumping her without even a Dear John letter. Yes, we are all very, very bitter. Professionally bitter. And what’s more bitter than a professionally bitter actor? Jake and Harry start out on a bad foot when Harry makes comments about Jake’s movie that are broadcast thought out the theatre – this stage has excellent sound transmission. Eventually the boys unite and attack Roxanne, and then we are deluged with everyone’s worst fears – missed casting, few employment prospects, and a lousy love life.
Bitter people can be quite entertaining, especially if you don’t know them well. Goehogan’s Harry seems impressed by everything about Broadway from props to costumes; you get the feeling he’s been the “third man” or “guest” in more than a few community productions. Feren’s Roxanne nailed the stereotype Nazi stage manger trope, she snaps and blusters and always has a flashlight and a band aid and does a reasonable job of herding her charges through their cues. Brightman’s Jake mixes arrogance and fear, and points out that there is little difference between saying “Get in the truck!” and reading Kafka’s obtuse prose. It’s just that more people will see the “truck” line, and it pays better. Painful to the artiste, but true.
Like all good backstage comedies, it helps if you’ve been back stage. The audience roared in all the right places, and no one laughed out of turn. This is dark comedy, borne of other people’s pains and shortcomings, and while you laugh, there’s a subtle calculus going on – will I still have a job next week, or will I be auditioning for a new role as barista, accountant, or middle manager? This show is brutal, and brutally funny.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com