Octavio Carlin, playwright-director-designer, has mined his love for the early years of show business to create "
Hollywood and Broadway
," an old-fashioned drawing room farce that is now on stage on Hollywood's Theatre Row.
Carlin is best known as an award-winning fashion designer with a name-sake boutique in West Hollywood. He imagines a meeting of Gloria Swanson and Tallulah Bankhead at the Hotel Astor before the 1951 "New York Page One Awards." The set is sumptuous. The costumes are eye-popping. The acting is over-the-top. The action is non-stop. This is all perfectly aligned to produce a fast-moving 80 minute comedy.
Terrence Gene Taylor, the first actor we see, sets the tone for farce with his wonderfully hammy portrayal of Lucas Wensel, "a snooping butler." Next we meet Olivia Choate (Tallulah), Kat Brower (Gloria), and Christina Lemon (actress Aileen Pringle), three rivals for the affection of audiences and unwitting participants in a jewelry heist scheme. Filling out the cast is Danny Menendez (Thomas Reilly Bradford), sportingly playing a drawing room comedy stock character -- the abused hotel clerk.
The three actresses are well matched. Choate plays Tallulah as an aging star manically desperate to hang onto her fame (although the actress seemed young for the role of the 49-year old Bankhead). Brower's Gloria is the sensible one, holding her head nobly high even while casting zingers at her rivals. Lemon, a gifted comedienne, plays the self-absorbed foil -- a gossip determined to finish telling her story while oblivious to the chaos going on around her.
The relationship between the ladies -- dressed in beautiful gowns designed by Carlin -- is the core of the show. There is much fun to be had as they insult each other and threaten to move onto each other's turf (Tallulah owned Broadway and Gloria owned Hollywood.)
Unfortunately, the dialogue is overdressed with obscure references and name-dropping that seriously distracts from the fun. References to actors, movie titles, and scandals of the 20s, 30s and 40s confused me and had me reaching for the program, where there is a page of references (34!) printed in unreadable six-point type. If the show dropped the name dropping (and gave us more cat fights), young audiences would be more attracted to this stylistic -- and stylish -- gem.
Hollywood and Broadway is playing thru March 22 at the Hudson Guild Theatre. TICKETS
Hudson Guild Theatre
6539 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90038