“CITY OF ANGELS” ENDS GOODSPEEDS SEASON
By Marlene S. Gaylinn
If you like viewing 1940’s black and white films -- particularly the Humphrey Bogart ones that feature smug, smart talking detectives in raincoats, encounters with gangsters and blonde dames dressed in white satin and furs, you might very well enjoy this parody of old-time Hollywood.
As you may have guessed by now, “City of Angels” refers to Los Angeles and its mega, money-making film industry. This is also the place where people are known to behave far from saintly.
In this show’s plot within a plot, within a plot, we have a writer who is trying to make his successful novel into a screenplay. The author encounters endless frustration with his work because the film’s kooky director keeps insisting that he change almost every line and scene. At the same time, the writer is having marital problems plus, he engages in extra-curricular sexual distractions that mirror the characters he is trying to reproduce on film.
To separate the writer’s reality from his inner thoughts and the film being produced, some scenes take place in living color and others in black and white. To make things even more confusing, some of the actors play double roles -- appearing in each color mode. If you are able to sort this all out and are able to understand where this overall plot may be leading and why, congratulations!
There are 21 rapid-fire scene changes in Act I and 19 take place in Act II. Many scenes are accomplished by the use of stacked cubicles and Venetian blinds -- luckily, none of them got stuck. Whatever the purpose of this show -- that is if there is a purpose, it seems to be wrapped up in one, highly repetitive song, “I’m Nothing Without You.” Which brings to mind an episode of TV’s “Seinfeld,” that explained to a potential producer, “...this is a show about nothing.”
Cy Coleman’s music with lyrics by David Zippel and book by Larry Gelbart were considered quite innovative when “City of Angels” opened on Broadway in 1992. The show was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and won 6. It’s true that the depiction of various realities by color-coding the scenery and costumes is rather novel (although it was used in the “Wizard of Oz film and others). Also, the carefully timed, typewriter-driven screen revisions, that are rhythmically choreographed to emulate the rewinding of a film reel, are very clever. However, in this age of rapid, computer advancements, any mechanical novelty can become tiresome if repeated too often. It was also said that the show’s musical style -- in the form of jazzy phrases is also unique. Then again, one has to cultivate a taste for dissonant tunes and whining songs that scream meaningless words at you.
This is an extremely, complicated show and director, Darko Tresnjak; and choreographer, Jennifer Lee, should be complimented for taking on such a big challenge. Burke Moses shines out as detective “Stone” while D.B. Bonds plays the frustrated writer, “Stine.” Jay Russell has a lot of amusing material to work with but has not cultivated the ethnic character of an eccentric, Hollywood film director. With some actors playing double roles and other scenic distractions quickly following, there’s no time to focus on any particular character. This enormous cast gets swallowed up in the confusion and the viewer can get a headache trying to make sense of it all.
If you enjoy adult cartoons and fast-paced chaos, “City of Angels” is made just for you.
Plays through November 27