Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Money Shot **

The poster for Neil LaBute’s new comedy, now in previews at MCC Theater, is doubly misleading: the four actors do not end up in bed together and Fred Weller does not have hair on his chest. The play raises the question of whether the world really needs another satirical look at the denizens of Hollywood. They are both too easy and too frequent a target, unless the playwright has some new insight to share. That is not the case here. Steve (Weller) is an obtuse 50-ish action film hero whose fight against Father Time has led him to marry Missy (Gia Crovatin), an ex-cheerleader and would-be actress less than half his age. Since Karen (Elizabeth Reaser) came out as a lesbian, her movie career has been on the skids, despite her attempts to pump it up with a cookbook, website, charitable activities and marketing ploys. Her lover Bev (Callie Thorne) is a film editor with a pugnacious personality, to put it mildly. Steve and Karen are currently filming a movie that they hope will revive their careers. The European director has suggested that they liven up an upcoming bedroom scene by actually having sex. The four are gathered at Karen’s luxurious home in the Hollywood hills the night before filming, allegedly to negotiate with their loved ones how far they are allowed to go in the shoot. However, it is more than an hour into the play before they finally get around to the matter at hand. The first hour is devoted to a series of arguments over such weighty questions as whether David Crosby is Bing’s son and whether Belgium is really part of Europe. By the time they get around to arguing over where tongues may or may not be placed during the shoot, we have realized that LaBute’s own tongue is planted firmly in his cheek. There are many amusing lines, but it all adds up to absolutely nothing. The actors give it their all. Weller, who was billed as Frederick in Mothers and Sons is listed here as Fred; I wish he had also shed the pinched voice that was so annoying in McNally’s play. Derek McLane’s set is lovely, Sarah J. Holden’s costumes are just right and Terry Kinney’s direction is fluid. Too bad they didn’t have something more substantive to work on. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes; no intermission.

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