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.   Image

TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER teaches acting and theatre/film history at the New York Film Academy’s west coast campus at Universal Studios. He has been writing about LA theatre since 1987, including 12 years for BackStage, a 23-year tenure as Theatre Editor for Entertainment Today, and currently for As an actor, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Best Actor Award as Kenneth Halliwell in the west coast premiere of Nasty Little Secrets at Theatre/Theater and he has also been honored with a Drama-Logue Award as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at the Egyptian Arena, four Maddy Awards, a Award, both NAACP and GLAAD Award nominations, and six acting nominations from LA Weekly. Regionally, he won the Inland Theatre League Award as Ken Talley in Fifth of July; three awards for his direction and performance as Dr. Dysart in Equus; was up for Washington, DC’s Helen Hayes honors as Oscar Wilde in the world premiere of Oscar & Speranza; toured as Amos “Mr. Cellophane” Hart in Chicago; and he has traveled three times to New Orleans for the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, opening the fest in 2003 as Williams himself in Lament for the Moths and since returning to appear in An Ode to Tennessee and opposite Karen Kondazian as A Witch and a Bitch. Never one to suffer from typecasting, Travis’ most recent LA performance, as Rodney in The Katrina Comedy Fest, netted the cast a Best Ensemble Sage Award from ArtsInLA. He has also been seen as Wynchell in the world premiere of Moby Pomerance’s The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder and Frank in Charles Mee’s Summertime at The Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Giuseppe “The Florist” Givola in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui for Classical Theatre Lab, Ftatateeta in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Lillian, Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Rubicon in Ventura, Pete Dye in the world premiere of Stranger at the Bootleg (LA Weekly Award nomination), Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Egyptian Arena, the Witch of Capri in Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Fountain, and Dr. Van Helsing in The House of Besarab at the Hollywood American Legion Theatre. As a writer, he has also been a frequent contributor to several national magazines and five of his plays have been produced in LA. His first, Surprise Surprise, for which he wrote the screenplay with director Jerry Turner, became a feature film with Travis playing opposite John Brotherton, Luke Eberl, Deborah Shelton and Mary Jo Catlett. His first novel, Waiting for Walk, was completed in 2005, put in a desk drawer, and the ever-slothful, ever-deluded, ever-entitled Travis can’t figure out why no one has magically found it yet and published the goddam thing.