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Tinsel Town
by Joe Hanrahan
Directed by Rachel Tibbetts
The Midnight Company
December 2, 2021

Joe Hanrahan, Ellie Schwetye
Photo by Joey Rumpell
The Midnight Company

Los Angeles, California is like no other place on earth, both in its near-synonymous association with the entertainment business and with a specific form of quirkiness. The Midnight Company’s latest production, Tinsel Town, is a suite of interconnected short plays that highlight the unique aspects of this area and with entertainment culture in the age of the pandemic. Showcasing two excellent performers, the show is a fun, alternately hilarious, critical, and insightful look at showbiz personalities and the town in which they live, work, struggle and thrive.

The show is three plays in one, with its two performers, Joe Hanrahan and Ellie Schwetye, each playing a different role each time, although the stories are connected in that they are set in the same “world” representing a day in L.A. and various aspects of the entertainment industry, and through Schwetye’s three characters, who each mention the others and who are working on a film project together. Even with these connections, though, the plays vary sharply in tone, from the broad comedy of the first segment: “Late Lunch on Melrose 1:30pm”; to the more humor-tinged drama of the second segment: “Just Off Sunset 12:15am”; and finally to more lighthearted comedy with the third segment “Shoot in Santa Monica 12:40pm”. Each looks at “the business” from a different angle, highlighting both positive and negative aspects of the L.A. and showbiz life, particularly in the movie and music industries. The plays also all deal with artists experiencing various transitions in their careers, as Schwetye’s demanding movie star Beverly Montclair deals with maybe not being considered “A-list” anymore, and getting offered different roles than she’s used to by her longtime agent Bobby Daniels (Hanrahan) in the first segment; veteran singer Teenah Davis (Schwetye), who is trying to restart her career with a new band after some struggles, has a potentially fortuitous meeting with also struggling longtime session guitarist Hank Riley (Hanrahan) in an alley behind a club after a show in the second segment; and longtime British stage actor Richard Hoffman (Hanrahan) deals with nerves and cultural adjustment issues as he works on his first Hollywood film shoot–for a sci-fi epic featuring villainous “space vampires”–with aspiring director Susan Dmitri (Schwetye) in the third segment.

The performers here adjust impressively to the shifts in tone between the pieces, with both–and especially Schwetye–gleefully hamming it up in the hilariously over-the-top first act, as Hanrahan’s fun script cleverly skewers the stereotypical “Hollywood” atmosphere and demonstrating the versatility of the word “darling”. Both performers also find much poignancy in the melancholy but hopeful second segment, and then deftly return to a slightly more gentle brand of comedy in the third vignette, as Hanrahan’s examination of the L.A. life trends back to the goofy side, but still maintaining a sense of hope. It’s a fun show, overall, showing off the considerable talents of its two leads, as well as their versatility and sense of timing.

The L.A. atmosphere and “Hollywood” vibe are well-maintained throughout by use of excellent mood-setting music in the interludes between shows, and by Erik Kuhn’s excellent lighting and minimalist set, as well as top-notch video design by Michael Musgrave-Perkins. The costumes by Elizabeth Henning are also impressive, and suit the characters especially well. Overall, this is a well-paced, superbly cast, especially memorable look at a day in the life of one of the more celebrated–and parodied–cities in the United States, and in the world. 

Ellie Schwetye, Joe Hanrahan
Photo by Joey Rumpell
The Midnight Company

The Midnight Company is presenting Tinsel Town at the .Zack Theatre until December 18, 2021

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