Letters offering glam vacation spots to you and your mate whether you are mated or not: We’ve all received them. Like a communiqué inquiring as to whether or not one might be so inclined as to join a secret society (and a curiously hard-up one at that) which promises to bestow all the glamour, materialistic bliss and exotic adventure the likes of which sound way too good to be true, these types of paper messages were all too popular in the 80s/90s: A letter offering all the aforementioned—or at the very least a DVD player and a one day trip to Catalina. Upon calling the prescribed number and informing them you are “interested”, in such a sunny secret society that conducts all exclusive conventions on the pale white sands of Cancun, you are informed that you are much too—uuhh, what’s the verbiage… ?—“pathetically, alone, and poverty ridden to qualify.”
“But you sent me the damned letter,” you exclaim! It says it right here, ‘Our files indicate that you are eligible to be a part of a very exclusive opportunity… ’ Whatsa matter with you guys? Just who exactly does your research?!? Moreover, does not the mere fact that I am soooo totally…’single and alone’, as you peripherally put it, make the perfect case for a week of fun in the sun, predicated on the distinct possibility of ‘getting my groove back’?!? No? Huh, okay—no… May I speak to your manager…?”
“Okay…okay…perhaps we can work something out,” you are resignedly informed. The date, time and address are subsequently established for you to come and pick up your free DVD player—er….no, I mean, for the sales pitch to end all such sales pitches (at least on your behalf) and halt all such snail mailed communiqués from ever crossing the mini-threshold of your mailbox. But it will all be worth it thereafter. YOU will be the owner of a brand new DVD player and a forthcoming and forever clean postbox. Win/win!!!
It is a Friday night at the Eclectic Company Theatre on Laurel Canyon Blvd. in North Hollywood (right across from Shakey’s!!!) The one-and-only backstage bathroom of the theatre breaks the fourth wall and we are all admonished not to go back there during the performance, as someone might want to sell us a timeshare (even though I know I would certainly settle for their flat screen TV) and, more to the point–yet politely unarticulated–forestall any and all fourth wall breakage!
The title of the play is as predictable as the subject matter heretofore, and once transported via lighting, sound, and stage presence to the timeshare sales offices in question, one cannot help but feel one has been conveyed back to the 80s—or 90s at the very latest.
Written by Steve B. Green, former seller of the things himself, Timeshare the play is ostensibly as accurate as the most bodacious-mullet-back is long! As a matter of fact, the balance of the play may as well be a series of testosterone aspirant mullets talking to and FRO to one another.
The piece opens with Tom, the protagonist—and the only truly emergent real world masculine character in our story—giving himself a pep talk in the bathroom mirror. He is earnest. He is unassuming. We like Tom; everyone else in the office—the men in particular, not so much. (But they are all fairly hilarious to laugh at instead of with if you catch my drift…)
The business in question is in the heart of New Jersey (wherever in hell THAT is). Following Tom’s somewhat self effacing pep talk, the lights illuminate an actual pep rally of sorts and the mullet redolent quotient rises in calculated percentage as the 80’s John Fogerty hit “Centerfield” is utilized to stimulate our sales folk (Oh Gawd, that ol’ jam-or nonjam as the case truly were!!!)—stimulate being the operative word if not in one capacity, then another. For nearly everyone wishes to bed Christine, the sole female salesperson (with a bod to beat all bods and a Joisey accent to scare away small dogs), Mike in particular in all his alpha mullet—er male allure (or hearty Viking Sven comportment–in looks only.) With longish blonde locks, beefy muscular arms and a Neanderthalish charm all his own, he is Hell bent on bedding Christine. Christine however, just wants to bed Tom. Tom simply wants his ex-wife and child back. Manager Frank just wants all customers back after their choice of the offered flat screen TV rather than any sort of mutually beneficial transaction, and Jack just wants…anybody.
Banter between characters is just the bees knees and though there are not a lot of “on the paper” jokes, in the actual script, the manner in which the lines are written and the fashion in which actors act upon and react to one other, is often times priceless. The night I witnessed said magic, the audience was in near constant stitches. Tom’s relation to Jack stood out in particular: Jack acting as the Judd Nelson to Tom’s Judge Reinhold.—Like, SERIOUSLY!
Oh and the characters who wish to buy a timeshare—er, attend only wishing to pick up their flat screen TV?—don’t even get me started at their hilarity! At a certain point an older dude who looks much like Mclean Stevenson by the character name of Neil enters, along with his adorable wife Gretchen who resembles a cuter more innocent version Katherine Helmond from Soap and Who’s the Boss. (Remember them?) And then the shit hits the fan!!! This, Kids, is what we call the turning point of a play and it is just terrible. Oh my God you do not want to be on that stage when it transpires! However, it is certainly more than fun and entertaining to behold from the audience by gum!
While this change of course is certainly quite a surprise, the ending: Not so much. Additionally, certain scenes go on a little too long and some could be cut all together, particularly as the paradigm we are witnessing is fairly basic and established quite early on. (In other words: Yeah, we-get-it.) All the same, Green’s way with written banter, and his direction of the play, along with the actors’ delivery and portrayal, is just top notch—for the most part…
Jon Mullich as manager Frank howls like a harpy and bellows like a banshee finding very few alternate levels concerning his character. All the same, it kind of works for ol’ Frank the Timeshare non-mogul. But hope upon hope he does not cop this Will Farrellesque “I-can’t-modulate-the-sound-of-my-voice” for anything else he may portray—‘cause Day-yum—turn UP the pipe-DOWN switch—wouldja?!?! Zachary Reeve Davidson as the wanna-be-white ghetto gangstah dude and his equally sophistication-stifled girlfriend Amy, played by Madelyne Heymen are both maddening and endearing in all the right places. Sarmarie Klein as Christine acts suitably slutty, sensible and senseless as the Tom-Chasing piece of tail she aspires to be. (Seriously, who smacks a dude across the face for saying he can’t run away with her after one volley of kisses. I think I know women like this, and they are never truly pretty—on the inside that is to say) and Klein tackles this challenge in most forthcoming fashion plus a whole bag o’ chips–bargaining chips that is…! Mike, her indefatigable imagined suitor, portrayed by Travis Quentin, is dogged and despicable everywhere it counts! Paul Messinger as the McLean Stevensonesque Neil is most arresting and deliciously menacing. Marbry Steward as the assuaging and adorable Gretchen is positively endearing. Kerr Lordygan as the ever ready—for “bed” (with Twins in particular) Jack is hilariously horny and hedonistic in the basest of senses. He also stands out in that he sports a Joisey accent just a trifle bit South of Center for the rest of our cast, closer to the Pennsylvania Dutch region of the country (an accent I know quite well, and it is just divine, both sonorously and in keeping with character choice.) Lastly Tony Pauletto as Tom is positively charming, self-effacing, and earnest in all the right places. At times you do not even know he is acting and he kind of reminds you of a best friend from yours or of somebody else’s in former, present or impending existence. Direction by Steve B. Green is seamless.
And with a sophistication commensurate with the gustatory tastes of salted meats and heavy carbo-loading, one half expects the cast to stay in character and all to go to the Shakey’s across the street.—But YOU knew THAT!
Timeshare runs through December 13th at The Eclectic Company Theatre (right across the street from Shakey’s!)