You can’t talk about Famous, an 11:11 Experience, without talking about its playwright, Michael Leoni. We have to acknowledge, he is likely the initial draw. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, his last play Elevator may jog your memory. It ran for 7 months at the Coast Playhouse and 10 months before that at the Hudson/Macha theatres. Not too shabby for a theatre production in a Film and TV town. Elevator was nominated for numerous awards and received plentiful “go-see-it” reviews. Leoni has done plenty of other stuff, too. Without a doubt, expectations are high for his newest offering.
This show is billed as an experience and I can agree with that. The production design makes it so. First of all, there is a sound track that basically runs through the entire show. In fact, the program lists the scenes numbered on Side A and Side B as if on a cassette tape. Conner Youngblood is the international recording artist behind the soundtrack. It’s a thing, definitely a thing. The set is nothing shy of amazing. Hats off to David Offner (and a pretty nice budget, I’d say) in creating a truly believable 1990’s Mulholland Drive mansion. But I’d say the lighting was what really defined the “experience” aspect of the show. There were strobes, neon, use of color… just flat out dramatic lighting for a dramatic play. In any other show, I’d say Martha Carter would have been over the top, but not for this one. Completely appropriate. Completely cool.
11:11 (Michael Leoni’s production company) describes Famous best:
Through the eyes of Hollywood’s biggest star, Jason Mast, we witness a world fueled by sex, money, and power, where image is everything.
So… we find ourselves at an industry party celebrating the just-Oscar-nominated Jason Mast (Christopher Dietrick) and all his “friends” are there. From the get-go we can see that all is not well. There is a mania. Everything is off, dark and wrong. There are drunk/high childhood actor friends, a drunk/high younger brother, a high strung/drunk manager, a high powered slimy producer, and an underaged drunk/high hollywood star wannabe. So, drunk and high folks abound. We soon learn there’s a hidden camera placed in every room with some sort of plan to get even… for what, we aren’t immediately sure. We also (in hallucination or flashback form) see Jason’s younger self and the high cost he paid in horrific experiences to get where we find him today. Successful and miserable.
This isn’t a story of shiny, happy Hollywood, it’s about the all too often nasty cost of fame. It’s not a new story, nor terribly profound. It’s just uncomfortable and sad. The show ended with a flashback to an interview Jason Mast gave, helping us with the moral of the story, just in case we were unclear. It was clear and it made my eyes roll. The 120 minute show was 180 in my case and it was all just too much.
This one wasn’t for me, guys. But the ensemble cast was committed and talented. There are plenty of viable reasons to check out the show. Michael Leoni can’t have a hit every time and he’s still one to keep your eye on.
1107 N. Kings Road
West Hollywood, 90069
Runs Friday & Saturday at 8pm & Sunday at 7pm.
thru September 30
www.FamousThePlay.com or (323) 378-6969.
General admission: $35. VIP tickets: $50
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