Review Paul Rudnick’s ‘Big Night’: Comedy and crisis in the awards machine of Hollywood

17/09/2017

In a posh Beverly Hills hotel suite overflowing with gift baskets, Michael, the central character of Paul Rudnick’s tentative new comedy, “Big Night,” is anxiously primping for what may be the most important evening of his life.

A dedicated gay actor whose career has balanced Shakespeare in the provinces with “Law & Order” guest spots, Michael (played with amiable earnestness by Brian Hutchison) is up for an Oscar for supporting actor. Heading off to the ceremony that will decide his Hollywood future, he wonders what expression he should feign if he loses to Matt Damon. But he’s informed by his young and excitable new agent, Cary (Max Jenkins), that he has a good shot at winning. Somehow this only makes him more nervous.

The play, which opened Saturday at the Kirk Douglas Theatre under the direction of Walter Bobbie, recalls in its bantering setup one of the playlets in Neil Simon’s “California Suite,” the one that looks in on a visiting couple from London as they prepare for the wife’s own big night and then cope with the bitter marital aftermath after returning from the Academy Awards empty-handed.

But Rudnick, the author of the plays “I Hate Hamlet,” “Jeffrey” and “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,” the screenplay “In & Out” and countless New Yorker humor columns, populates his five-star suite more densely. This ostentatious room with an entrancing L.A. view becomes an LGBTQ microcosm as visitors arrive full of congratulations, special requests and dizzying surprises.

The first to show up is Michael’s transgender nephew, Eddie (Tom Phelan), who’s majoring in queer studies at UCLA with “a thesis concentration in non-binary gender expression.” He wants Michael to use his platform to make a statement about Hollywood’s lack of diversity and “historic abuse” of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally and pansexual” people.

Cary, who’s out and proud himself, respects Eddie’s alphabet of political commitments but advises Michael not to shoot himself in the foot just as his career is about to take off. He’s working on a lucrative multi-movie deal. The producers of “Star Wars” want to cast Michael, who, turns out, has a thing for light sabers. This is no time for criticizing the academy.

By this point, Michael’s mother, Esther (Wendie Malick), has shown up dressed to the nines with breaking news of her own. I don’t want to give too much away, but Esther is traveling with a new friend, Eleanor (Kecia Lewis), an African American Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who brings some intersectionality to the political debate Michael would rather not be having.

Eleanor inquires what pronouns Eddie prefers. (“I’m fine with he, they, hir, zir, or zee,” he answers.) Eddie asks Eleanor whether she prefers “black, African American or person of color.” (“Dealer’s choice” is her freewheeling reply). Rudnick could probably have spun an entire play lovingly satirizing this kind of politically correct social etiquette, but he recognizes that homophobia and hate crimes are more pressing concerns.

“Big Night” takes a serious turn when Michael discovers the reason his lover, Austin (Luke Macfarlane), is unaccountably late. The situation Rudnick constructs is all too plausible in an age when mass violence and displays of intolerance are regularly in the news, but the change in dramatic register isn’t smoothly pulled off.

The characters react to information that shocks and upsets but doesn’t have the power to upend them. Scenarios remain theatrical hypotheticals. The mood grows somber, but the comedy doesn’t allow the consequences of what occurs to sink in. Unreality reigns.

“Big Night” plays like a speculative humor essay on urgent themes. The interplay of perspectives is lively, but the characterizations are “types” led more by laugh lines than by psychology. The playwriting makes it hard to believe in the world inside this hotel suite, which (as designed by John Lee Beatty) seems more Las Vegas than Beverly Hills.

Comedy, as practiced by Molière, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, provides a forum for the bandying of difficult and dangerous ideas. Realism needn’t be the priority, but Bobbie’s production plays against genre, keeping the zaniness on an unnecessarily low flame.

“Big Night” doesn’t accelerate like a farce. There are curious lulls in which the actors appear stranded, waiting for rescue from Rudnick’s inexhaustible wit after something more dramatically meaningful fails to show up.

On the plus side, there’s Malick in a gorgeous evening dress (the magic of costume designer William Ivey Long) looking impossibly young and doing her best to turn the stereotype of the Jewish mother into something contemporary and original. Yes, she foists food at her loved ones in moments of crisis. And no, she never stops worrying about careers, grades, designer discounts and awards. But she plays Esther first and foremost as a woman with her own desires, needs and convictions.

If the play forces upon the character sentimental speeches that say nothing, the fault lies with the playwright, who doesn’t know how to resolve a situation that even his own characters have lost faith in.

Rudnick ought to write to his own strengths. More camp from Jenkins’ Cary wouldn’t be amiss.

Cary, who grew up in Beverly Hills wanting to be an agent, recalls his bar mitzvah at the Hotel Bel-Air “with calla lilies, a vegan buffet and twin Soviet gymnasts from Cirque du Soleil.” The theme? “The films of Jennifer Aniston,” he answers, defensively clarifying in the next beat, “The early films!”

“Big Night” may be earnest in patches, not entirely convincing and a bit thin, but Rudnick hasn’t lost his talent to amuse. The play is funny even when it stumbles and stalls.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

‘Big Night’

Where: Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays; ends Oct 8 (call for exceptions)

Tickets: $25 to $70 (subject to change)

Info: (213) 628-2772 or www.centertheatregroup.org

Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes (no intermission).

Source: Los Angeles Times

“Rock Paper Dead” @ Nightmares Film Festival 2017

rpd_promopic_nightmaresfilmfestival2017

button_en“Rock Paper Dead” will be presented at the Nightmares Film Festival 2017 that will be held in Columbus (Ohio, U.S.A.) from 19th to 22nd October. You can buy tickets here. More details soon.

button_sp“Rock Paper Dead” será presentado en el Nightmares Film Festival 2017 que se llevará a cabo en Columbus (Ohio, Estados Unidos) del 19 al 22 de octubre. Puedes comprar entradas aquí. Más detalles muy pronto.

button_it“Rock Paper Dead” sarà presentato al Nightmares Film Festival 2017 che si terrà a Columbus (Ohio, Stati Uniti) dal 19 al 22 Ottobre. Potete acquistare i biglietti qui. Presto ulteriori dettagli.

button_fr“Rock Paper Dead” sera présenté au Nightmares Film Festival 2017 qui se tiendra à Columbus (Ohio, États-Unis) du 19 au 22 octobre. Vous pouvez acheter des billets ici. Plus de détails bientôt.

BIG NIGHT

16/09/2017

Paul Rudnick flounders Big-Time in Big Night, a World Premiere comedy-melodrama likely to prove a Big Letdown to fans hoping for more of the same hearts-and-minds-changing comedic magic that made Jeffrey and In & Out such crowd-pleasing delights.

It’s Academy Award night and Best Supporting Actor nominee Michael Stratford (Brian Hutchison) is about to head over to the Dolby Theatre and quite possibly accept an Oscar as pay-off for years spent either toiling regional theater or snagging an occasional TV guest spot or movie bit.

Not only is this a big night for Michael, it’s a big one too for his firecracker of a new agent Cary (Max Jenkins), who’s so gay he’s got fifteen pairs of eyeglass frames (and he doesn’t even wear glasses); for his political activist boyfriend Austin (Luke Macfarlane), about to arrive at Michael’s deluxe Beverly Hills hotel suite from a stop at the Gay Center’s LGBT youth Oscar party; for his trans nephew Eddie née Erica (Tom Phelan), a UCLA queer studies major raised in the most traditional of homes; and for his mother Esther, who we know must be absolutely fabulous if for no reason but that she’s played by Wendie Malick.

Sill, from the start there are indications that Rudnick in political activist mode won’t be the writer we’ve come to know and love for his ability to poke fun at contemporary gays (whether the out-and-proud Jeffrey or Kevin Kline’s In & Out closet case) without ever becoming strident and preachy.

It turns out that Michael’s biggest Oscar competition tonight is a cisgender actor playing a transgender serial killer (if this seems very 1991 Silence Of The Lambs, it’s not the only time audiences may find themselves feeling they’re watching something written a quarter-century ago) and Eddie, selfish if well-meaning little prick that he is, wants Uncle Michael to use his Oscar speech platform (because there’s apparently little doubt he’s going to win) to lambast the Academy for its long history of homophobia!

(I’m guessing that it’s around this time that those of the non-progressive persuasion will find themselves heading for the exit rather than stick around for more of what they’ll surely see as Rudnick’s “gay agenda,” and they may not be the only ones.)

Esther’s arrival does manage to perk things up a bit, as does the surprise she springs on her son, which is that walking the red carpet by her side tonight will be her college prof Eleanor (Kecia Lewis), the merry widow’s Pulitzer-prize winning African-American lesbian lover!

But that’s nothing compared to the cataclysmic event that follows Esther’s announcement, a game-changer takes Rudnick’s comedy into stark dramatic territory (a genre most definitely not the writer’s forte) from which there is no recovery, a tonal shift not helped by the fact that the words coming out of Rudnick’s characters’ mouths are talking points and sound bites, and before you know it, Big Night has sunk quicker than Titanic.

Director Walter Bobbie and his cast do what they can with the material, Jenkins proving a particularly sassy delight as Jack McFarland clone Cary, and it’s a treat seeing Malick play a character with more depth than those she’s normally given. Hutchison, Lewis, and Phelan, on the other hand, are hobbled by their characters’ clichés, and Macfarlane, entering when he does midway, never gets to play more than anguished.

At the very least, Big Night looks absolutely fabulous as designed by a team of Broadway greats. John Lee Beatty’s gorgeous set looks to have been transported directly from the Beverly Hills Hotel, William Ivey Long’s costumes are stunners, Ken Billington’s lighting dazzles, and Karl Fredrik Lundeberg adds amusing/dramatic sound effects and some nifty original music.

Brooke Baldwin is production stage manager. Lindsay Allbaugh is associate producer. Casting is by James Calleri, CSA and Paul Davis, CSA.

Paul Rudnick fans hoping for more of what made us fall for his previous hits will be sorely disappointed by Big Night. Big Flop is more like it.

Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. Through October 8. Tuesdays through Fridays at 8:00. Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00. Sundays at 1:00 and 6:30. Reservations: 213 628-2772
www.centertheatregroup.org

–Steven Stanley
September 16, 2017
Photos: Craig Schwartz

Source: Stage Scene LA

[PHOTO GALLERY] New photos from the backstage of “The Night Shift” season 4

button_enHi. I’ve just added new photos by Gabe Sachs from the backstage of the fourth season of “The Night Shift”. You can find them in the Photo Gallery.
button_spHola. Acabo de añadir nuevas fotos por Gabe Sachs desde los bastidores de la cuarta temporada de “The Night Shift”. Puedes encontrarlas en la Galería de Fotos (Photo Gallery).
button_itCiao. Ho appena inserito nuove foto di Gabe Sachs dal backstage della quarta stagione di “The Night Shift”.  Potete trovarle nella Galleria Fotografica (Photo Gallery).
button_frSalut. Je viens d’ajouter unes nouvelles photos de Gabe Sachs de l’arrière-scène de la quatrième saison de “The Night Shift”. Vous pouvez les trouver dans la Galerie de photos (Photo Gallery).

 
Photo Gallery > Tv Series > The Night Shift > Season 4 > Backstage

[PHOTO GALLERY] Updated galleries from “Killjoys” season 3 episodes 9 and 10

button_enHi. I’ve just added new photos from the third season of “Killjoys”. You can find them in the Photo Gallery.
button_spHola. Acabo de añadir nuevas fotos desde la tercera temporada de “Killjoys”. Puedes encontrarlas en la Galería de Fotos (Photo Gallery).
button_itCiao. Ho appena inserito nuove foto dalla terza stagione di “Killjoys”. Potete trovarle nella Galleria Fotografica (Photo Gallery).
button_frSalut. Je viens d’ajouter unes nouvelles photos de la troisième saison de “Killjoys”. Vous pouvez les trouver dans la Galerie de photos (Photo Gallery).

Photo Gallery > Tv Series > Killjoys > Season 3 > Promotional Stills > 3×09 Reckoning Ball- Promo Stills
 
Photo Gallery > Tv Series > Killjoys > Season 3 > Promotional Stills > 3×10 Wargasm- Promo Stills

Killjoys 4-5, Syfy rinnova la serie per 2 stagioni finali

05/09/2017

Syfy ha rinnovato Killjoys per la produzione di una quarta e di una quinta stagione che chiuderanno lo show di fantascienza

Gli appassionati di Killjoys non devono preoccuparsi che il finale della terza stagione possa segnare la fine della serie: Syfy ha comunicato ufficialmente  che il dramma fantascientifico sui cacciatori futuristici è stato rinnovato per la quarta e la quinta stagione, rispettivamente da diedi episodi a stagione per un totale di 20 puntate che segneranno la conclusione di questo racconto.

Syfy ha rinnovato Killjoys per la produzione di una quarta e di una quinta stagione che chiuderanno lo show di fantascienza.

La creatrice di Killjoys Michelle Lovretta ha dichiarato ai microfoni dei colleghi del magazine online TvLine:

Questo rinnovo è il tipo di privilegio che ogni scrittore spera, una possibilità per pianificare la fine della tua storia con il lusso di 20 episodi per farlo. Sono immensamente grata per questa incredibile opportunità.

Secondo Ill McGoldrick, EVP dello sviluppo degli script in NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, il finale della terza stagione di Killjoys cambia cambia le regole del gioco e pone i presupposti per fornire ai capitoli finali delle avventure spaziali per l cacciatori di bounty.

Killjoys, che vede nel cast Hannah John-Kamen, Aaron Ashmore e Luke MacFarlane, tornerà con la quarta stagione nel 2018, mentre la quinta ed ultima stagione, nel frattempo, si prevede per essere prodotta per il 2019.

Source: Serie Tivu

Kirk Douglas Theatre Set for Big Night’s Big Night

03/09/2017

Big Night begins performances tonight at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

This world-premiere production of playwright Paul Rudnick’s comedy is described as follows: “It is the night of the Oscars and a working actor turned Oscar nominee knows that his life is about to change — he just doesn’t know how profoundly. His transgender nephew has plans for his speech, his young agent has plans for his future, his unstoppable mother has plans for the catering, and his partner is nowhere to be found. Master satirist Paul Rudnick blends a deep humanity with a honed sense of hilarity in this powerful and funny play about family and fame, the personal and the political, and the drive to stand up and speak out.”

Tony winner Walter Bobbie (Chicago) directs the cast of Brian Hutchinson (Smokefall), Max Jenkins (The Mysteries of Laura), Kecia Lewis (Marie and Rosetta), Luke Macfarlane (Brothers & Sisters), Wendie Malick (Just Shoot Me!) and Tom Phelan (The Fosters).

The creative team includes set design by John Lee Beatty, costume design by William Ivey Long, and lighting design by Ken Billington. Casting is by James Calleri and Paul Davis. Brooke Baldwin is the production stage manager.

Source: Theater Mania

[PHOTO GALLERY] New photos from “The Night Shift” season 4

button_enHi. I’ve just added new photos from the fourth season of “The Night Shift”.  For the screencaps thanks to Brendan-Fehr.Net. You can find them in the Photo Gallery.
button_spHola. Acabo de añadir nuevas fotos desde la cuarta temporada de “The Night Shift”. Por las capturas de pantallas gracias a Brendan-Fehr.Net. Puedes encontrarlas en la Galería de Fotos (Photo Gallery).
button_itCiao. Ho appena inserito nuove foto dalla quarta stagione di “The Night Shift”. Per gli screencaps grazie a Brendan-Fehr.Net. Potete trovarle nella Galleria Fotografica (Photo Gallery).
button_frSalut. Je viens d’ajouter unes nouvelles photos de la quatrième saison de “The Night Shift”. Pour les screencaps merci Brendan-Fehr.Net. Vous pouvez les trouver dans la Galerie de photos (Photo Gallery).

Photo Gallery > Tv Series > The Night Shift > Season 4 > Promotional Stills > 4×08 “R3b0ots”  – Promo Stills
Photo Gallery > Tv Series > The Night Shift > Season 4 > Promotional Stills > 4×10 “Resurgence”  – Promo Stills
 
Photo Gallery > Tv Series > The Night Shift > Season 4  > Screencaps > 4×05 “Turbulence” – Screencaps 
Photo Gallery > Tv Series > The Night Shift > Season 4 > Backstage

[PHOTO GALLERY] New photos from “Killjoys” season 3 episodes 9 and 10

button_enHi. I’ve just added new photos from the third season of “Killjoys”. You can find them in the Photo Gallery.
button_spHola. Acabo de añadir nuevas fotos desde la tercera temporada de “Killjoys”. Puedes encontrarlas en la Galería de Fotos (Photo Gallery).
button_itCiao. Ho appena inserito nuove foto dalla terza stagione di “Killjoys”. Potete trovarle nella Galleria Fotografica (Photo Gallery).
button_frSalut. Je viens d’ajouter unes nouvelles photos de la troisième saison de “Killjoys”. Vous pouvez les trouver dans la Galerie de photos (Photo Gallery).

Photo Gallery > Tv Series > Killjoys > Season 3 > Promotional Stills > 3×09 Reckoning Ball- Promo Stills
 
Photo Gallery > Tv Series > Killjoys > Season 3 > Promotional Stills > 3×10 Wargasm- Promo Stills