Review by Bill Garry
Seven giant egos collide, conspire, and commiserate in a tenth anniversary staging of Louis Jacobs' "
7 Redneck Cheerleaders"
from the Elephant Theatre Company. This production, updated with a few contemporary references in the script, continues as one of L.A.'s favorite, and most knowing, comedies through March 8.
The title refers to the first play written by Ben, a geeky writer from a small Southern town. Inspired by his flamboyant aunt on her deathbed, Ben decides to mount the play in Hollywood and immediately gets overrun by his cast -- seven recognizable "types" with conflicting agendas. Whether you are a tourist or an industry insider, you'll laugh as Ben passive-aggressively manages these seven egos and steers the play from casting to rehearsals to opening night.
One of the pleasures of Hollywood's 99-seat shows is seeing gifted actors up close. Cast members, who alternate nightly, added depth to what could easily be one-dimensional characters. At the performance this reviewer saw, a number of actors stood out: Etienne Eckert was hysterical as a narcissistic mother figure whose grip on reality comes and goes. James Pipi as an arrogant producer/actor got under my skin -- which is exactly what he was supposed to do. LeShay Tomlinson runs away with the show as a larger-than-life, substance-abusing lesbian on whose spirit of cooperation the plot turns.
John Salandria, Whitney Fortmueller, and Kate Huffman are, respectively, callow, clueless, and calculating in the roles of members of the play-within-a-play's teenage cheerleading team. Louis Jacobs (the playwright), as an old gay actor, provides some counterbalancing gravitas to the mayhem until he, too, has had enough.
Micah Cohen plays Ben as a
schlemiel. He accommodates,
acquiesces, and just plain gives-up
during battles with his cast. I would have liked to see more of the inner battle inside Ben; he was a little too neurotic to be sympathetic, even after he is forced to handle the second act's tragic twists.
The "play withing a play" framing is well set up and easy to follow, thanks to David Fofi's fresh and fast direction. The action takes place throughout the Lillian Theatre's great space; the set gets dressed (and expanded through clever fold-out panels) as the play-within-a-play progresses to opening night.
7 Redneck Cheerleaders
is playing thru March 8 at the Lillian Theatre.
Elephant Stages - Lillian Theatre
6322 Santa Monica Blvd
(Santa Monica & 1076 Lillian Way)
Los Angeles, CA 90038