Los Angeles Theater Review: THE LIGHT BULB (NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood)

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by Tom Chaits on October 9, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


While it is probably safe to assume that the NoHo Arts Center Ensemble’s “playwright in residence,” Joshua Ravetch, had some bright idea in mind when writing The Light Bulb, I must admit that after sitting through the uninterrupted 90 minutes I was left totally in the dark.  Try though I did, I simply could not come up with any reason for it to exist. Mr. Ravetch fleetingly throws so many ideas against the backdrop–hoping something will stick–that he ultimately ends up with a pointless endeavor: Marketing is evil; the “black rectangle” in your living room is evil; castrating superiors are evil; spin doctors are evil; unscrupulous credit-grabbing co-workers are evil; manipulation of the masses is evil. None of these are new ideas and Chad Coe (standing) with Sue Goodman, Scott Kradolfer and Jon Acosta in the NOHO ARTS CENTER ENSEMBLE World Premiere production of THE LIGHT BULB, written by Joshua Ravetch and directed by James J. Mellon.Mr. Ravetch’s script brings nothing new to the discussion. The true evil is that after sitting through the entire show you realize he really has nothing revealing or particularly profound to say.

The plot revolves around a group of marketing executives at MadCAP, the biggest advertising agency in the world, as they grapple with and struggle through all the creative machinations necessary to develop a campaign to introduce their latest product, a light bulb that never burns out. When unintended and completely ludicrous circumstances arise following the most successful product launch ever, they spin the disaster into a win-win for all of them.

The narrative is framed around a news reporter’s (Robert Arbogast) accounting of the events. We meet the nerdy inventor (John Sofge) and then are taken into a conference room where a team of six marketing specialists (Jon Acosta, Chad Coe, Sue Goodman, Jennifer Hall, Scott Kradolfer and Irene Roseen) sit in a semi-circle around a red light bulb. The sextet is dressed in basic black on a starkly black set (design by Kevin Bailey). The big boss (Karesa McElheny) is on the way, and if the group doesn’t come up with a plan before her arrival their days of gainful Karesa McElheny and Robert Arbogast star in the NOHO ARTS CENTER ENSEMBLE World Premiere production of THE LIGHT BULB, written by Joshua Ravetch and directed by James J. Mellon.employment will surely be numbered. Enter Noah (Matthew Shane), a “platinum millennial” (anyone too young to remember 9/11) intern to save the day.

The female characters are all broadly drawn from familiar cloth: Maggie Smith, Holland Taylor, the generic vapid blonde bimbo, and Carrie Fisher (from her days of Wishful Drinking – which was developed and directed by Mr. Ravetch) all seem to be the inspiration for their creation. Only Ms. Goodman, as the Carrie Fisher type, survives unscathed. Her Marsha is grounded and quite believable and the running Brady Bunch “Marsha-Marsha-Marsha” gag is one of the few highlights of the show. Ms. Roseen, as the Maggie Smith type, can deliver a zinger with zeal (when she doesn’t stumble on her lines), but unfortunately as written they lack any real zip. Jennifer Hall, as the bimbo, isn’t given anything remotely interesting to say.  Ms. McElheny, as the Holland Taylor type, is working way too hard at convincing us all she is a total cunt. (I only use the “C” word to describe her because the script features a three-minute diatribe in which most of the actors throw the expletive around so repetitively that they give The Book of Mormon a run for its money. There are plenty of “F-bombs” being dropped as well). McElheny would have been much more effective if she had dialed down the bitch quotient and dialed up the power and danger aspects of her role.

With the exception of Mr. Sofge’s quirky inventor and the youthful enthusiasm Mr. Shane brings to his “boy wonder,” all of the other male characters are bland, benign and completely forgettable. The actors all do a serviceable job with what they are given but the problem remains that they simply are not given much to do. Mr. Coe Karesa McElheny, Scott Kradolfer and Irene Roseen in the NOHO ARTS CENTER ENSEMBLE World Premiere production of THE LIGHT BULB, written by Joshua Ravetch and directed by James J. Mellon.provides some much needed comic relief with the show’s other running gag, which for no apparent reason concerns the size of his butt.

Under the direction of James Mellon, the action, what there is of it, unfolds at a steady pace and he manages to use the multi-level space well. With the help of Luke Moyer’s lighting design and Cricket S. Myers’ sound design he breathes some life into what would otherwise be nothing more than a boring black box presentation. He seems to have exerted a steady hand across the board with the actors although it’s odd that he didn’t tone down Ms. McElheny’s attack on her character.

As you enter the theater you are entertained by a recording of familiar commercials which immediately puts a smile on your face. Anticipation runs high that we are all in for a treat. Unfortunately, when the lights fade to black you’ll more than likely find yourself saying: “What the [insert F-bomb here] was that?”

photos by Luke Moyer

The Light Bulb
NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood
scheduled to end on November 9, 2013
for tickets, call 818-508-7101 x 6 or visit http://www.nohoartscenter.com

{ 1 comment }

Larry Goodfried October 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm

I wish I had read this review before wasting 90 minutes of my life tonight watching this garbage. Since there were only about 20 in the audience, half of whom seemed to be friends of the cast, there seem to be folks far smarter than me.

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