“Completely Hollywood” full of stars, some extra bright

Soulstice Theatre's rendition of the Reduced Shakespeare Comedy inspired show hits the right notes, especially in Act II.

By - Jan 26th, 2013 01:38 pm

“Completely Hollywood (abridged)” goes around the world of the silver screen in 90 minutes.

I can’t tell you how many times my conversations have derailed into the inevitable topic of Hollywood. A chat with a friend about their hopes and dreams turns into an argument that Toy Story is the most influential film of all time. Or I’m trying to have a deep, political discussion and BAM, we’re on the topic of Justin Timberlake’s triumphant transition from film back into music.

In essence, this is why Completely Hollywood (abridged), which opened at Soulstice Theatre Friday, is so fascinating to watch: Hollywood is inescapable. Originally created by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, best known for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), the play crams as many Hollywood film shout-outs as possible into two hours, creating a continuous skit show of one-liners and physical comedy.

Soulstice’s production shone throughout the night, a fun and successful romp through film history. Director Char Manny and a cast blessed with comedic chemistry (no small feat) led the audience through 200+ movie references, and I found myself smiling almost the entire time.

That “almost” hints at a worrisome beginning. One of the first films parodied was Charlie’s Angels, by male actors (Joe Krapf, Al Oldham and Josh Perkins) clumsily carrying out a mission dressed in drag. The bit was funny, but my worry was that Completely Hollywood would lean on overwrought comedic formulas like men in dresses throughout the night – a worry that fortunately never came to pass. The scene also provided me with a favorite cast member –Oldham was understated, natural, and completely hilarious throughout.

Perkins and co-star Jillian Smith were shakier during the first act, although they must have rallied at intermission. Call it opening night jitters, perhaps, but their early performances were overenthusiastic and subsequently off-putting. If the material is actually funny, it will speak for itself. No need to shout or compensate with weird body movements.

All the kinks were worked out by the second act. If the first act was an introduction to “The Rules of Hollywood” (everyone has a screenplay; there are only two types of movies; special needs: special prizes), then Act II was a fast-moving, hilarious manifestation of those rules.

Perkins found his pacing and became the stand-out talent: a cowboy-esque former Hollywood money man, searching for the simple life. He led the way through movie reference after movie reference, ad infinitum, with one climactic scene packing at least 20 movies into under a minute of flawless monologue.

Again, Oldham reigned supreme with his scenes as a non-caucasian medicine man, guiding Perkins on his journey with a bored voice and casually inserted jokes. He reappears later as an old friend from high school, delivering a long-winded story about the night he tried to ask a girl to the dance with perfectly nerdy delivery. Incredible.

Aside from a few too many Tom Cruise-is-short jokes, the comedy in Completely Hollywood (abridged) was clever and entertaining. There was a timely jab at Russell Crowe’s talentless voice. Al Gore made a welcomed appearance spouting “inconvenient truths.” And a slow-motion fire-fight accompanied by Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” provides a perfect outro. If only we could gulp up movies this quickly all the time.

Completely Hollywood (abridged) runs Fridays and Saturdays at Soulstice Theatre through February 9th (that’s only five more performances!). Tickets are $18 online or call (414) 481-2800.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Theater

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