Hollywood, the home of American cinema and celebrity. The average person can only dream of the sort of lavish lifestyles that the stars enjoy. But all that glitters is not gold, especially not in Tinseltown.
A vicious satire of Hollywood, Neil LaBute’s The Money Shot stages two aging movie stars desperate to make a comeback by any means necessary. The question is, is a comeback possible in such a toxic industry?
Directed by Ron Jenkins, The Money Shot sees Steve (Joel Cochrane), a greying action star, and his 24-year-old wife Missy (Brianna Johnston) visiting Karen (Daniela Vlaskalic) and Bev (Chantal Perron) at their luxurious Hollywood Hills home. The purpose of the visit is to discuss Steve and Karen’s latest film project which calls for the actors to have real sex on camera. Going that far for their art would undoubtedly revive their careers, say Steve and Karen to their respective partners, hoping to gain their approval.
And the audience might have sympathy for Steve and Karen if it were not for the fact that they both represent the worst of Hollywood stardom. Neither shows any grasp on reality, nor any capacity to think about anyone besides themselves. However, there is an important difference between the two actors in that Karen’s problems largely stem from the entertainment industry’s double standards against women
Ever since she came out as bisexual, Karen’s career has never been the same. Nowadays, Karen spends less time acting and more time trying to stay relevant through her lifestyle blog and advocacy, really any opportunity to have her name appear somewhere. And as the years pass, she feels herself fading from a world where all opportunity was once at her fingertips. Her world now belongs to young, beautiful starlets like Missy – even if they are as talentless as they are clueless.
In contrast, old age has ‘rewarded’ Steve with a wife half his age, executive producer credits, and an inflated ego. Although he may not get the parts he used to, Hollywood has shown itself to be much kinder to Steve than Karen, despite Steve being a downright despicable human being. Steve’s misogynistic, homophobic, and racist remarks are so brazen that one has to wonder if anyone besides Bev has ever dared challenge him. The sense is no, considering Steve doesn’t blink at the idea of physically defending his male privilege.
LaBute perhaps enjoys too much indulging in that which he criticizes, but Jenkins is careful to remind us of the play’s satirical nature. The characters in the room meet Cochrane’s utmost conviction in what he says with bewilderment, disbelief that someone could be that stupid. Jenkin’s attentive direction offers relief for the audience who might otherwise feel uncomfortable at the barrage of vulgarity LaBute launches our way. (Though, Jenkins has some difficulty keeping our interest near the end of the play’s two hour run).
In finding some nuance in LaBute’s brash, unapologetic script, Jenkins and company are able to draw big laughs from the audience.
Vlaskalic carries herself as if she’s on the Today Show, trying to peddle the latest fad with whatever sincerity Karen has left in her. Add in the dramatics of Norma Desmond (“I am big!”), and you have a stellar performance. Johnston plays Missy, the bubblegum actress (with the mouth of a sailor) with delight. Perron commands the stage as Bev with just the strength of her demeanor, and her eroding willpower to sit as the only sane person in this room flooded with narcissism. And these great performances give Cochrane plenty of room to play, buttons to push as he charges into each scene with Top Gun levels of confidence.
And JP Thibodeau’s exquisite set serves as a fitting backdrop for the blockbuster disaster that befalls the entire evening.
Ultimately, LaBute’s The Money Shot sinks its teeth into Hollywood, and takes a bite out of an industry that celebrates itself at any opportunity. Audiences will burst at the seams when they enter LaBute’s world of washed up talent and biting zingers. Ground Zero Theatre and Hit & Myth Productions deliver an uproarious evening at the theatre.
Ground Zero Theatre and Hit & Myth Production’s The Money Shot runs September 10 – 19 at Vertigo Theatre’s The Studio.
For more information about the show and how to purchase tickets, visit: http://www.groundzerotheatre.ca/upcoming.html