Reviewed by Jessica Salans
Teatro De La O at The Hudson Backstage Theatre
Through March 20
Before attending the opening night of fashion designer Octavio Carlin’s, HollyWould, I watched the Republican National Debate. Antonin Scalia was found dead that morning, and the first question posed to the candidates was whether the current POTUS, Barak Obama, should appoint a replacement judge to the Court.
Each man answered “no” in varying degrees, even though it is clearly stated in Article II, Section 2 of the American Constitution that the president of the United Statues nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with advice and consent of the Senate.
The desire to fact check anything from the mouths of the lunatics on stage ended right there. The entire debate was complete drivel: a farce, filled with extravagant characters and absurd non-sequiturs. Then I went to see HollyWould, a play billed as a “fashionable farce” — that is, a new comedy about mistaken identity and backstage mishaps.
Farce generally features ridiculous characters in highly exaggerated and improbable scenarios. In addition, the performers must unabashedly and fully commit to creating larger than life characters with broad panache.
HollyWould takes place in “Tinseltown, circa the 1930s, on the set of the great Garbo’s second talkie, Romance. We follow Holly Wouldchester, a wannabe actor, who takes on the identity of her sister, Martha, who had won a contest to be in Garbo’s film.
Why is this? There doesn’t seem to be any consequence to this plot point, comedic or otherwise. The show’s many gags, premised on a confusion between the names of various characters, all fall flat. Nor does the production feature the quick, sharp and agile timing from performers that can sometimes compensate for a play where the stakes are not very high.
Among the ensemble only Christina Lemon as the Countess Rina de Liguoro remotely succeeds in her comic endeavor. Her commitment to broad gestures, heavy exultant exhales and cartoonish facial expressions made for a very funny parody.
Elsewhere Genevieve Joy could have gone much further in her caricature of Greta Garbo, and Gerardo Ibarra delivered a very uninteresting performance as the film’s director, Clarence Brown.
But even if the ensemble had matched Lemon’s extravagant style, I’m not sure either Carlin’s direction or his writing would have sustained laughs. His repetitive jokes grew more diluted and tiresome. With no spine to the story, characters to intrigue you or high stakes, there was nothing to atone for the material’s stale humor.
If you visit Teatro De La O, Carlin’s production company, online, you’ll see outfits from the production. It may be that Carlin never intended HollyWould to be looked upon as an actual theatrical event but rather as yet another medium in which his work as a fashion designer could be viewed.
The evening presented an ironic contrast. A national debate for the highest ranking political office in America, featuring enormously realistic high stakes, proved a champion farce — a truly depressing event. An intimate, supposedly cultural event, billed to be a farce, fell completely flat, which was also a disheartening experience. The entire evening felt like a disorienting joke.
The Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd.,Hollywood; Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m.; Through March 20; http://www.hudsontheatre.com/; Running time: 1 hour and 26 miutes.