Chicago Theater Review: DYLAN BRODY’S DRIVING HOLLYWOOD (Apollo Theater)

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by Lawrence Bommer on May 5, 2017

in Theater-Chicago,Tours


It’s a crash course in one man’s life-long damage control: Up close, personal, and, therapeutically playful, Dylan Brody’s Driving Hollywood is a liberal-minded California humorist’s cri de coeur. Forthrightly and plaintively, Dylan Brody contemplates “a history of disappointment in self-expression.” Now playing Chicago’s Apollo Theater studio, his free-form, 80-minute confessional is rich with damning details about plastic phonies in the city of studios. To survive so much shallowness Brody must muster the gift—more properly, the cure—of laughter.

Stolid and sardonic, Brody bears enough defensive hilarity and gallows humor to spare. He admits that his life’s course has been from pretense in youth to pomposity in adulthood: Painting a picture of a non-conformist entertainer trying to stay unsold, Brody centers the monologue on a fateful “pitch” that he makes to a Hollywood “return-on-investment” honcho for a book deal. (It’s implied that the novel has morphed into the solo show we see).

An ugly encounter while walking his dog near the precious lawn of a control-freak neighbor ushers in a cascade of childhood confidences. We learn how, growing up in Schuylerville, New York, young Brody was constantly visiting the principal’s office against his will (a running joke that doesn’t end with childhood). Among his peers, he stood out for carrying a Dostoevsky novel, with Marvel comics sandwiched inside. Whether overthinking a class election, dealing with bullies, defending drugs, or padding a theater budget to produce The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Brody inevitably forces his open-minded father, a professor at nearby Skidmore College, to defend his very free speech as he “hears both sides of the story.”

In a series of what Brody delightfully calls “nested flashbacks,” we confront a car-crazed city where one mighty expressway rolls, like the three-river confluence in Pittsburg, into another majestic thoroughfare. Brody chronicles the 24/7 disillusionment of being a comic/writer (or both at once) in a “smoke and mirrors” L.A. where the only real validation applies to a parking ticket. The need to find and replenish creativity means living with “almost” as your only actuality.

But, no question, Brody, creator of six comedy albums and four published books, has been conventionally successful: He’s mixed with the likes of Adam Sandler, Richard Belzer, and Jerry Seinfeld, appeared on A&E, Fox Television and Showtime, and opened for three years running for David Sedaris. Robin Williams called him “brilliant.” This show’s tour will soon take him to Barcelona, London, and NYC.

But, a roaring resume aside, Brody is best at reminding audiences of their own setbacks and grievances: So much of any career consists of proving things you don’t believe to people you don’t respect, jumping through ever higher hoops, and stopping soulless users who, as Wilde said, “know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Brody knows where the bodies are buried. He’s very “on” to his profession: He spins a hilarious tale of a narcissistic comic who hears a deeply depressed woman confess that he made her laugh for the first time in 15 years: Her tragic tale, elaborately miserable, triggers a reaction from the comic so solipsistic you instantly groan and guffaw at the same time. Happily, ever ready to stop a “cop out” before it goes down, Brody’s dad is there to keep things real.

Moving Brody from a defensive desk to downstage deliveries to the all-important “mike,” Nancy Carlin’s staging keeps it crisp and close. Too true to be self-serving, Driving Hollywood never dissolves into a pity party. But don’t expect any Tinsel Town chamber of commerce to fund this tour.

photos by Cat Gwynn

Dylan Brody’s Driving Hollywood
Blue Panther Productions
Apollo Theater, 2540 N Lincoln Avenue
Wednesday-Saturday at 8
ends May 20, 2017
for tickets, call 773.935.6100 or visit Ticketmaster
for more info, including tour dates, visit Dylan Brody

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

{ 1 comment }

Howard Dickler May 5, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Way to go Dylan! Break a few boards…

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