Blah, Blah, Blah
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., Aug. 2, 2002
Blah, Blah, Blah: Skewering Hollywood With Sweat Flying
through August 10
Running Time: 2 hrs, 15 min
Now, to me this is a funny situation: A movie studio employee comes into a producer's office with a sawed-off shotgun. The employee doesn't look like a psycho. He's quiet, polite, unassuming. The producer shows him the right way to kill people -- loud, demeaning, totally amoral. The employee picks right up on the style and blows everyone away, including the producer. It's an effective parody of American violence visited on the people who purvey that violence. It turns the tables by challenging our stereotypical assumptions about psychos and the movies, and making us deal with them in new and unexpected ways.
Lowell Bartholomee wrote and directed these 14 sketches, gathered together under the title Blah, Blah, Blah, produced by Refraction Arts and Bayou Radio, and described on the program as "Seven Sharp Shorts and More, Featuring B Sides and Previously Unreleased Material." While some of the sketches seemingly have nothing to do with the movie industry, it is with the movies that Bartholomee is undeniably obsessed, and it is the movies that get addressed most often, with pieces about a rube that gets a line in a movie, a writer pitching a movie idea called Waiting for Godot, and an obsessed fan explaining the meaning of Casablanca, to name a few.
The atmospheric conditions at the Blue Theater on the evening I attended were trying. It was warm, really warm, so if you go, dress cool. I say this because, as an audience member, if I'm physically uncomfortable, I have to work harder to enjoy what I'm watching, much harder than under normal conditions. The same is true of performers. The six actors in the show are talented, with voices and presences that fill, sometimes overwhelm, the space. Acting effectively is a difficult task under any circumstances, but these actors were using tremendous energy, attacking the material in very physical, vocal ways. Sweat was flying, but they tended, as a group, to hit a level and stay there. There was variation in their delivery, but not nearly enough. I enjoyed some of the sketches, particularly "A Check Up From the Neck Up," with Douglas Taylor as the producer and Judson L. Jones as the psycho employee, and one titled "Showtime," in which everyone was the star of his or her own movie -- except, of course, the cameramen, with Taylor and Robert S. Fisher stealing the scene. But for the most part, the actors seemed to strain against the material rather than letting it speak for itself, as if they were trying to sell it, as if they didn't have confidence in it.
It could be that the actors weren't straining against the material. It could be that they were straining against the conditions. Bartholomee's material skewers its subject matter, the vast majority of the situations are clever and perceptive, but either Bartholomee, or the actors, or both, didn't trust what they had. There's material out there you have to work hard to sell, but this isn't it.