THE EXERCISE by Lewis John Carlino – The Lounge One – Los Angeles (Hollywood) Theater Review

by Tony Frankel on August 19, 2010

in Theater-Los Angeles

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AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY

Reviewer on the phone with his editor: “Listen, I got a problem. I just got out of The Exercise over at The Lounge Theatre. Listen, it’s not going to be a pretty review. I feel almost maligned. I’m so upset that I can’t – nor do I even want – to talk about anything that didn’t suck in this production, like Matt…wait a minute, let me look at the program, it’s in the garbage…OK, here it is…Matt Richter’s lighting. Or maybe I can mention the actress Anadel – no, Susan Hanfield (sorry, I’m confused, they are double cast for four performances each with a third actress doing one understudy performance). Anyway, Susan, ya know, cries and feels and all, I mean, the gal clearly has chops, but the other guy in the play…wait a minute, let me look, the program is back in the garbage…and let me tell you, this actor is a dead ringer for James MacArthur…here it is! Ummm, Keith Wyffels (not sure if it is pronounced Whiffles or Why-fuls)…anyway, um…the script (which rambles incoherently) demands layers upon layers of interpretation, and this guy is clearly a neophyte. I mean, he’s personable and all, you just wanna pinch his cheeks, but that God-awful wooden movement and obtrusive line readings…what the hell is a reviewer supposed to say without hurting the poor guy’s feelings? Just mention his name? How does that service the reader…or the production…or him for that matter?

“What’s the play about? Damned if I know. This couple meets for a rehearsal of a show and start playing theatre games, ya know, like where one is a child talking to its mother, where it’s supposed to look like improv, but it’s clear that the actors rehearsed. And then it becomes obvious that they have a past together, and they’re, I don’t know, working out their problems by being all introspective and he does an Irish accent…badly…PLEASE, I don’t want to talk about the plot anymore. It was like an excruciatingly bad Method Acting workshop…Viola Spolin is turning in her grave. Yes, I know that’s a vague reference. OK, Lee Strasberg is turning in her grave. His grave.

“Plus, this gal is wearing a dress that Mia Farrow would have killed for in 1968. In fact, except for the fact that there is a reel-to-reel tape recorder and some 60’s music, I don’t know why this takes place in ’68…hold on, let me get the press release…Here it is, right under the L.A. Times article which points to actor-driven theatre as one of the demises of the creative process in theatre…you know, I couldn’t agree more! It’s so insulting to be invited to review what is essentially a showcase for budding talent to be given free feedback or some positive snippets that they can put on their resumes…I mean, Christ, don’t these people know how much time goes into writing reviews and I DON’T EVEN GET PAID!! I thought that my perspicacity as a reviewer was a benefit to theatres…if they like the review, it’s free press…if they don’t – I mean, if the production doesn’t satisfy – I spend hours, days sometimes, evaluating their work, citing not just what areas soared, but offering areas for improvement. No wonder why most reviewers spout out a few paragraphs with no insight…why bother!

“What? No, I know you wish you could pay me…it was nothing personal.

“I know I need a bong load, but let me finish my rant first. I was talking about…what? No, we already established that you feel guilty that you can’t pay me…OH, the 1968 dress. OH MY GOD, listen to this! The press release says that the play premiered on Broadway in 1968 – but the program says that this is the WEST COAST FRIGGIN’ PREMIERE! Now I’m not so surprised that this thing stinks like trash during a sanitation strike on a hot August day in New York. No one has touched it out here in 42 years!

“Who produced this thing? Castle Productions. There ain’t even a mission statement for them in the program. The director? Dunno. The Press Release says ‘experienced director’ Kenn Schmidt. His bio in the program says…wait, here’s the best part so far…‘In senior high school, he directed scenes from A Delicate Balance and Camelot. As an undergraduate, he directed a scene from The Miracle Worker…’ I swear, I’m not making this shit up! ‘In graduate school, he directed Company…’ and that’s it. The bio goes on and on about his acting and training.

“What do you mean, ‘just don’t write a review?’ It’s the least I can do. We don’t pay for the tickets – although I wish I had…I could have left at intermission with those other people – and this thing lasted two and a half hours. Maybe I should tell the PR guy that it will be a pan and he’ll tell me to forget it. I mean, none of this is his fault. But should reviewers be political like that? OK, I’ll write it, but these guys in The Exercise are going to have to cull through someone else’s review for a quote, like ‘nifty so-and-so’ or ‘the appealing what’s-his-name.’”

Pause.

“I know, I’ll be all right. It just hurts, ya know? I’ve never panned a show like this before and it hurts. I know how well-intentioned they are…and these actors worked so hard…and the director seemed so sweet…

“Hmm?  Why, yes…I did just take a bong load.”

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

scheduled to end August 29 at time of publication
for tickets, visit https://www.plays411.net/newsite/show/play_info.asp?show_id=2464

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