Sunday, April 29, 2012

Martin City Melodrama "Completely Hollywood (Abridged)" review by kellyluck

Hollywood, Reduced
Rating: 4

Completely Hollywood (abridged)
Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Company

Since the founding of The Reduced Shakespeare Company in 1981, they have produced "abridged" versions of not only the complete works of Shakespeare, but also U.S. history, western civilization, sports, and even the bible. Currently at their Metcalf South headquarters, the Martin City Melodrama Company is performing their take on Hollywood. Chaos, appropriately, ensues.

The production posits itself a revue of sorts, of "99 movies in just under 99 minutes". It doesn't take too long for things to get off track, however, as the three performers (Marcus Mull, Nino Casisi, and Jeanne Beechwood) vying with each other, dueling screenplays. Along the way, the Twelve Rules of Hollywood are revealed, genres are dissected, and every movieland cliché gleefully held up to the light. The play climaxes in the second act, with a giddily schizophrenic "movie" performed right there on stage, spoofing every classic (and not-so-classic) film they manage to squeeze in (the official count is 187; I'll take their word for it).

At first blush it may seem odd that a primarily vaudeville/melodrama house is putting on such a contemporary production. But in actuality, the "Reduced" plays do have a lot in common with their vaudevillian ancestors. There is a manic, high-energy feel to them, rapid pacing with gleeful humor and no shortage of topical references worked in. We can't help but think of the "baggy pants" comics of that earlier era whose legacy is very much on display on the Martin City stage.

A performance like this demands a high-energy delivery. Fortunately, the Martin City players are more than prepared to deliver. Their experience in melodrama puts them in good stead as the three players switch rapidly back and forth between characters and situations at a dizzying pace. The audience at the performance we attended was quickly swept up into the spirit of things, even to the point of being drawn into the madness themselves (RSC productions have a long history of audience participation elements). The troupe proved themselves an excellent match for the material at hand, and it is hoped that they will explore the possibility of performing more along these lines.

The Martin City company has established itself as one of the premier all-ages theatre groups in the Kansas City metro area. Probably best known for their original works, they more than aptly demonstrate here their ability to handle others' material with aplomb.

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