A Wednesday night. I’ve been invited to a small black box theater in Sherman Oaks to see an original play. It’s not “immersive.” It’s not “the hottest tickets in town.” It’s not “whatever buzz word is floating around.” It is, however, the kind of play you hope to discover every time you go to a tiny theater somewhere in the valley. It is a small play that surprised the hell out of me. It is unconventionally structured, performed with passion by the cast, and genuinely hilarious.
I should have known I was in for something special when I opened the program and saw that Gordon Bressack wrote and directed the show. Bressack is a writer who’s worked on everything from “Scooby-Doo” to “Animaniacs” and “Pinky & the Brain.” The latter two shows known for their intensely clever and subversive humor and for which he won several Emmys. Gordon’s talent for writing unconventional comedy is what sets this play apart from anything I’ve seen recently.
The play starts with two writers, George and Charlie, trying to bounce ideas off each other to create the script for a play. As they write and come up with ideas, those scenes play out in front of us. However, George has a relentless ambition to turn the script into a feature film screenplay, so his ideas become increasingly outrageous as he attempts to find ways to appeal to a mass audience. What starts as a mild mannered murder caper, soon spirals into horror territory as the writers egg each other on and Charlie struggles to keep George’s ambition in check. Think Adaptation meets Cabin in the Woods.
As the audience, we are given the opportunity to see the playwrights creating the story right before our eyes. This allows for a lot of self-reflexive – and self-deprecating – humor about the nature of writing and the dirty business of entertainment. However, the play itself that this duos creates is hysterical and supremely entertaining, even if it ultimately leads to madness.
There’s truly something for everyone here with many references to horror films, current events, and TV shows. Anchored by the performance of Jack Zullo and Devin Caldarone as the writers, everyone in the cast is committed to the insanity Gordon has created. Carla Collins, gives an amazing turn as a blind medium, who is good at seeing the past…wait, can’t everyone see the past?
I would say more, but I don’t want to ruin any of the surprises – the play is best seen knowing as little as possible. Suffice to say there is a man in a chicken suit, multiple killers, and yes, zombies (I know they’re everywhere! When will they go away? Trust me the writers know it too).
If you’re a fan of off-beat humor a la Ren and Stimpy and South Park, I encourage you to find time on a Wednesday to check out this hilarious little play. It’s fast, witty, and slyly constructed. It weaves a great mystery while at the same time allowing you to see the bones of the construction. The results are as magical as Penn and Teller’s famous see- through cups and balls routine.
I urge people to go check out this small and crazy play.
April 5 – June 7, 2017 Wednesdays at 8:00 pm
Talkback Q & A after the show: April 19 & May 17
Tickets: $25. Seniors/Groups: $21. Students: $10 with ID.
Buy tickets firstname.lastname@example.org
The Whitefire Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks 91423
Theatre has AC/Heat and is wheelchair accessible