The Money Shot (Santa Rosa)
“Vapid” and “vacuous” are two terms that come to mind when discussing the characters in The Money Shot, Neil LaBute’s theatrical thumb-in-the-eye to Hollywood that closes out the 2016/2017 season at Santa Rosa’s Left Edge Theatre. LaBute, who’s written such harsh but interesting plays as In the Company of Men and The Shape of Things, has also spent time as a writer and director in Hollywood. If this play is any indication, he has not enjoyed his time there.
It’s set at the Hollywood Hills house of Karen (Laurie Gauguin), an actress past her prime, and Bev (Sandra Ish), her partner. They’re being joined for dinner by Steve (Dodds Delzell) an over-the-hill action star and his trophy wife Missy (Heather Gordon). It seems that the European director of Karen and Steve’s latest film has some ideas on how to really “spice up” the film. Because they both need a hit, they’re willing to do anything – anything – as long as it’s ok with their respective partners. What follows is two hours of funny, if empty, conversation and argumentation which culminates in the play’s own ‘money shot’ – a wrestling match.
LaBute, who’s been accused of being a misanthrope and misogynist, doesn’t allay those concerns with this script. I’d say he leans more heavily to the misanthropic side with this one as no one come off very well. To be fair, I’d say he’s taking his shots at very specific Hollywood “types” but still, there isn’t a likeable person to be found on stage. It’s the type of show designed with characters for you to laugh “at” rather than to laugh “with”.
But you will laugh. Dodds Delzell, who hasn’t been seen on a Sonoma County Stage for a while, is very funny as the vain and doltish action star – think Bruce Willis or Nicolas Cage (with whom LaBute made a terrible film). Just when you think he can’t saying anything stupider, he outdoes himself. Heather Gordon earns the show’s biggest laughs with a simple warning about a specific “situation” and a cheerleader’s take on The Crucible. Sandra Ish, who is also the show’s co-director with Kimberly Kalember, does solid work as Karen’s put-upon partner whose blood pressure must spike fifty points with each of Steve’s incredible utterances. Her character seems the most grounded till you start to wonder how she ever ended up with Karen. As Karen, Laurie Gauguin seems to be the least “seasoned” of the cast as I felt there was a lot more to be mined from the Gwyneth Paltrow-like character who’s willing to endorse anything and everything to keep her image out there.
The show is funny, but it is also caustic and crude and mean-spirited with some pretty graphic dialogue. That really should be no surprise if you understand the meaning of the title – Google it if you don’t. There’s no great meaning to be found in The Money Shot. Some have labeled it satire. I see it more as farce. It’s two hours of unbelievable, exaggerated characters saying and doing ridiculous things. I say exaggerated because nobody could be as boorish, thoughtless, self-centered, egotistical, narcissistic, and stupid as the characters in this play.
The Money Shot
Presented by Left Edge Theatre
through June 4
Fri/Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 2pm
Left Edge Studio Theatre
Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
50 Mark West Springs Rd
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Photos courtesy of Left Edge Theatre