CHASING THE DREAM
The Chase Lounge 68 Cent Theatre
It might not be considered the best of ideas for a performer, while pointing to various audience members from the stage and telling them how much she hates them, to direct her attention to the one known invited critic and single him out with: “And I especially hate you!” Still, that outrageously non-PC gaff notwithstanding, this particular reviewer can forgive all when the actor is Heidi Sulzman and the sheltering solo piece in which she performs this heinous act of personal transgression is David Rackoff’s highly resourceful contemporary farce The Chase Lounge.
From the minute the audience enters the 68 Cent Theatre’s modest playing space, it’s not hard to imagine Chase Lounge will be an inventive—though somewhat spartan—event. On the tiny stage masked-off to be even tinier to cover revealing sightlines, there are only three omnipresent onstage doors perfect for slamming and two side entrances set up with camouflaging furniture to disguise phantom backstage artists ready to close unresponsive doors or double for characters. Why, there’s even a masking hanging from above on one side, which Sulzman insists in no uncertain terms we file away in our memory banks, guaranteeing it’ll provide a necessary plot twist somewhere along the way.
Akin to a one-person Noises Off or Lend Me a Tenor, Rackoff wrote this piece of consciously silly fluff especially for Sulzman, who defies all odds by simultaneously playing three fiercely competitive sisters, their uppercrusty mother, and the one-legged lesbian lover of one of the girls. Under Rackoff’s direction, Sulzman creates these roles with broadly comedic stereotypical strokes, but then even Moliere would agree she hardly has time to layer on more intricate character choices. Besides the grandly-voiced matriarch of this troubled clan, there’s Falalla, a self-absorbed plastic surgeon; her identical twin Michelle—in a wheelchair since a car accident involving white supremacists on their way to a Halloween party (going as ghosts since they already had the costumes)—and their bitter sibling Berta, whom Falalla transformed into the twins’ clone against her permission (how conveeeeeeenient), as well as Michelle’s girlfriend, whose face has been opportunely bandaged since the lovers’ wreck.
Ironically, late in this 90-minute Mr. Toad’s Ride called The Chase Lounge (that includes a 15-minute intermission added presumably so Salzman can snort enough speed to continue another 35 minutes), our heroine admits the show has so far been “more about lounging than chasing,” so a concluding pursuit scene finds the quintet of characters running frantically from one place to another, all fighting over three identical coolers: one containing the mother’s coveted diamonds upon which the entire story revolves, one containing the human liver Michelle needs to have transplanted to live, one containing Berta’s lunch.
All this is accompanied by an original musical interlude composed for this piece by the celebrated Harry Gregson-Williams, most famous for the soundtracks for the Shrek movies and other film fare. Ironically, although this is a major selling point for this production, the music Gregson-Williams contributes does not really fit the action. While it’s not hard to picture the score as perfect for family movies featuring cartoon characters or witches, wardrobes, and the king of beasts, what’s needed instead here is the kind of stuff reminiscent of ol’ Elmer Fudd chasing that silly wabbit to technicolor glory—or at least a few minutes of Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite.”
Still, The Chase Lounge provides a great night out if you’re looking for fun and willing to forego checking out a theatrical experience able to help foster a new contemplation of the complexities of life. No, there’s nary a hint of Ibsen or Miller to be found anywhere around this Lounge, or even Ken Ludwig for that matter. From the get-go and without a moment of apology, there’s not much hope for substance here; but then, who’s asking for any? This delightfully crafty though decidedly lightweight farce is made unique for one particular reason: it features the single, solitary, and unquestionably hardworking Sulzman emoting at breakneck speed—and never opposed to sharing the difficulties of doing so with her appreciative audience.
The 68 Cent Theatre is located at 5419 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; for tickets, call (323) 960-5521.