Showing us how much things have NOT changed...

Noir Thriller HOLLYWOOD  takes the stage in La Jolla Playhouse World-Premiere

Jeff Marlow and members of the cast. Photo by Jim Carmody.
Have you ever played the board game 'Clue'?. If you have, you will relive your childhood memories with this play. If you have not, then you will get the idea.

It is fascinating to me how society is so much alike, regardless of the culture or place of origin. Let me elaborate; TV and Film are basically similar in any country. Fame and 'fortune' are sought. Who has not wished to be a 'star' when being little? (no? really?...Really?). I swear I am not projecting... It is like a copy/paste situation throughout the decades. It would seem today, that with social media and objects seeming 'closer than they appear' now with technology, there is more violence in society. But really, it is something that has been latent all along. 

(L-R) Martin Meccouri, Shaun T. Evans, Katherine Ko, Scott Drummond and Lee Sellars. photo by Jim Carmody.
HOLLYWOOD written by Joe DiPietro (Memphis, Chasing the Song) and directed by Playhouse Artistic Director, Christopher Ashley brings to the stage, the 1922 unsolved murder case of Irish born, antique businessman turned actor, then turned Hollywood film director William Desmond Taylor (Scott Drummond). I liked this work because of the following:
  • Reliving old Hollywood. Some of the actresses of that time, like Mabel Normand (Kate Rockwell) and Mary Miles Minter (Talene Monahon) along with her kooky stage mother Charlotte Shelby (Harriet Harris) the silent movies and the way contracts and 'agreements' were made. 
  • So, the rumors... you know, drugs, sex and rock and roll...TRUE.
  • Paul Tazewell's Costume Design and Tara Knight's Projection Design. Loved it.  
  • It is like a history lesson. Being that, most of the characters in the plot, were real.
The piece thoroughly goes into this famous tragedy. For those of us who did not know who Desmond Taylor was, as well as 'enlightening', it also leaves us with this 'murder' image. Not going deeper into who he was. A man who had been married with a daughter and just plain decided not to come back one day, after going for lunch. I understand that, this was not the point of the play and I applaud Dramaturg: Shirley Fishman on her work because, having a 15 person cast with all these clues, history and lose ends, ain't easy. I also like the fact of how the Hollywood industry, the film industry is portrayed. And really, how things well, have not changed much, regardless of the decades that have passed, the millennium arrival and you know everything else...

A comic book is included in the program, executive summary style, in order to better explain who the suspects are. It is better to read it before the show starts because then, the illustrated explanation takes place onstage in silent movie mode. Which I thought was totally on point, and very smart.

Harriet Harris (top) and Talene Monahon photo by Jim Carmody.
Harriet Harris is phenomenal. Her talent, stage presence and experience, shine trough with a marvelous portrayal of what we know well, is a stage mom. Not only protecting her means of income. It is a very well and carefully layered delivery in which we also see a worried mother for her child. The monster she has created and what has come with it. A supersized ego, immaturity, delusion, tantrums, all the way to a hidden abortion. Harris in the second act is just ovation worthy.
You can pick up a southern accent, which becomes confusing at times with Talene Monahon's work because, her accent sounded sort of British. Monahon as the famous starlet, I consider good in mannerisms and intention, the loony stare is always there. It was the tone in her voice, that just did not mesh with me. High pitched and weird. It gave the idea that she was always under something, instead of a true portrayal of a childish woman.
Kate Rockwell as Mabel Normand, although subtle, sets a firm presence. Scott Drummond as the murdered Director, I consider did a flawless job. Both coming in and out after being 'killed' and, in the silent sequences that are shown along the course of the play. 

Overall, I think it is an excellent attempt to 'recreate' a (stage) version of what happened. As I always say, theater is a powerful tool with much more potential than just entertaining. Piece by piece, the end result is a very decent effort. Again, Paul Tazewell's costume design is on point. There is a scene in which actor Jacob Bruce (mooning the audience aside), dresses. It is a very nicely choreographed scene where you see the pants, suspenders, shirt, vest. All showcasing that time period. Contoured by Howell Binkley's Lighting Design. The Scenic Design by Wilson Chin was also on point, reproducing Taylor's bungalow as well as film sets. And off course, the suspense cannot be boosted without a good Sound Design, courtesy of Chirs Luessmann. There was a gunshot in the second act that was a little TOO loud for my taste but, maybe that was the point, to freak everybody out.

Kate Rockwell and Scott Drummond. Photo by Jim Carmody.

HOLLYWOOD has so many elements plot wise, character wise and visually wise, that it is hard to maintain the same on going rhythm from beginning to end. As the energy became evident during the first act, the intermission came; then, the energy built up again, wanting more, I was ready for more and it just...ended... Abruptly. If the 'digestion' of the facts was done a little slower, the ending would have been savored a little more. 

There are a number of surrounding events for HOLLYWOOD. Please note, the play includes nudity, smoke and loud noises.

Thirsty Thursdays
Every Thursday during the run of Hollywood,
starts at 7:00 pm
Before the performance, complimentary beer tastings from Mike Hess Brewing. Presented by La Jolla Playhouse in partnership with James’ Place. Includes two 3-oz beer tastings plus a $5 special on Mike Hess draft.

Sonic Saturdays
Every Saturday evening during the run of Hollywood, starts at 6:45 pm
Enjoy lively “Django Reinhardt-inspired gypsy jazz” by Trio Gadjo before the show in front of the Weiss Theatre.

ACCESS Performances
Open Captioned Performance
Sunday, May 29 at 2:00 pm
This performance has added open captioning for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

ACCESS performance
Saturday, June 4 at 2:00 pm
During this performance, La Jolla Playhouse provides American Sign Language interpretation for audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing and audio description for patrons who are blind or have low vision.

Martin Meccouri and Harriet Harris. Photo by
Jim Carmody.
Audience Engagement Events
Talkback Tuesday
Tuesday, May 24 after the 7:30 pm performance
Participate in a facilitated discussion with actors and artistic staff immediately following the performance. A great way to share your thoughts and learn more about the show! Sponsored by Holland America Line

Tuesday, May 31 after the 7:30 pm performance
Participate in a facilitated discussion with actors and artistic staff immediately following the performance. A great way to share your thoughts and learn more about the show! Sponsored by Holland America Line

Insider Events
Wednesday, June 1 at 6:45 pm
Insider events offer a special pre-performance presentation by members of the Playhouse staff that highlights the history and making of the production you are about to see.
Saturday, June 11 at 1:15 pm

Discovery Sunday
Sunday, June 5 after the 2:00 pm performance
Special guest speakers engage audience members in a moderated discussion exploring the issues and themes in the play.

 For more information on showtimes and dates, please visit:

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