Three Companeros Review and Interview - A Playwright Takes on Hollywood's Alpha Males

One of the few things that happens to a reviewer is being honestly and pleasantly surprised when a new production comes to town. Three Companeros is the brainchild of Iowa native and now L.A. resident Amy Rhodes.


As was heavily reported in the tabloids earlier this year, actors Matthew McConaughey, Jake Gyllenhaal and seven-time Tour de France racing cyclist winner Lance Armstrong formed a tight male bond. They were photographed a lot talking and flexing their muscles on the beach.  Rhodes saw this peculiar sight and probably thought it was a great premise for a story.


Robert Lambert as Lance Armstrong and Drew Droege plays Mr. Morris


 

'I saw a lot of pictures of the three of together and that's how I decided to write a show about the three of them,' said Rhodes. 'I knew that they were hanging out a lot an it just seemed logical. Each of them filled out the role of someone in Three's Company.'

It took Rhodes a whole weekend to complete the script then, and then she did a reading with friends to test it out. The night I saw the show I didn't know what to expect. All I knew was that it was a parody of the original show about nothing, the 1970s sitcom Three's Company where Lance, Matthew and Jake step in as the new version of Jack, Chrissy and Janet, respectively.

Jake and Matt spend the summer at Lance's townhome on the beach. In the opening scene, Matt and Lance have not returned from a club and poor Jake (Bryan Safi) gets stuck at home taking messages from Lance's ex-girlfriend Sheryl Crow. From that moment until the end of the night, the laughs never stopped. Taran Killam plays the obnoxious McConaughey too damn well. He gives out McConaughey's let's-get-drunk-and-pick-us-up-some-girls swagger mixed with his enigmatic Texas appeal.

While Killam lays on the charm, he gets endless enjoyment torturing Jake with the now memorable line 'I wish I knew how to quit you'. Jake rolls his eyes at the often-repeated comment fiercely wishing that an anvil would fall on McConaughey. Meanwhile, Mr. Lance 'I am super cool' Armstrong makes it known, every single time, that simply being in his presence is a high honor.

Robert Lambert perfectly captures the arrogance that Armstrong is widely known for. Safi plays the likeable good guy and self-appointed peacemaker. The scenario got me scratching my head on how these guys became the poster children for acting as BFFs. Drew Droege does his own version of bumbling landlord Mr. Furley using exaggerated language and body movements for effect. Blonde heroine Cassie Pappas, simply known as The Girl, provides the sexy in making the guys go overboard.

Drew Droege and Robert Lambert


Rhodes told me over coffee at Starbucks in Hollywood, arriving fresh faced her long brown hair pulled up showing off her clear blue eyes, how she wanted to plug in all the men's relationships based around the beautiful girl concept and see how the men would react to one another. As a testament to classic television sitcoms, she wanted to have a fun and simple plot that are enjoyable. And of course, the two main components of the Three's Company formula is the lack of communication and wild assumptions that come in to play. 

When I found out that a woman wrote and directed the show, I was immediately surprised and feared for the upcoming writer's reputation. There is a misconception in this patriarchal industry that female comics and comedy writers are not funny. The late actor John Belushi notoriously said this asinine remark about his Saturday Night Live female co-stars Jane Curtain and Laraine Newman. Somehow, Gilda Radner got a pass. I thought to myself, 'this girl better be seriously funny or she will get ripped apart.' Thank the Lord it was a hilarious performance.

'I learned that men and women don't find the same things funny which makes it much harder for women because there are so many more men doing it. Vanity Fair had that article a couple of months ago how women are not funny. It is a hard business for women,' said the Tufts University graduate. 'It boggles my mind that there is still that perception of women. Part of why I wrote Three Companeros for three men and one woman was because I had a couple of people say they weren't sure if I knew how to write for men. So, I put out the most alpha males and wrote a show about them. By surrounding myself with people I think are funny and they think I'm funny regardless of gender.'

Rhodes satirizes the sitcom Three's Company


She admits she lucked out with the cast. Rhodes handpicked Lambert for Armstrong from an improv class she currently teaches at the Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre in Hollywood. Taran Killam for McConaughey immediately impressed her and she specifically had Bryan Safi in mind for the Gyllenhaal role. Safi introduced the writer to his pal Drew Droege for the role of Mr. Morris. Rhodes said admits Droege 'made the character his own different from what I envisioned'. Many actors were surprised that a woman wrote the hysterical show and told Rhodes so. She took the left-handed compliment as a genuine gesture of admiration.  'I wanted this show to appeal to guys and women equally and if it does that's great'

It is not as if Rhodes fell off the comedy wagon when she left New York for Los Angeles a year ago. She wrote a sitcom pilot, Stalled, for the Oxygen Network based on her two-woman show. She joined forces with fellow writer/director Eric Pliner, for Spooky Dog & The Teen-Age Gang Mysteries an adult version of the The Scooby Doo Mysteries cartoon that had a successful run in New York. The world-renowned theatrical publishing company Samuel French, Inc. will soon publish that work.  Three Companeros is her debut L.A. show.

 'I'm a writer so it makes more sense for me to be out here for writing jobs. There are not a lot of television writing jobs in New York. I love New York and I miss it but the Upright Citizens Brigade opened a theater out here so I had a home and a job which made it a lot easier to come out here'

Playwright Amy Rhodes

Her brother and sister and niece live in Los Angeles. Her parents remain in Iowa where the four return for vacation and much needed rest. Her mother, journalist turned author and educator, Mary Kay Shanley ( She Taught Me To Eat Artichokes), encouraged, more likely instigated, her daughter's writing streak. Naturally, Rhodes counts her mom as one of her favorite writers.

Mother Shanley is in good company with the heavy hitters in comedy such as Mindy Kaling The Office, Amy Sherman-Palladino Gilmore Girls and Tina Fey who in 1997 became the first female head writer on the testosterone-driven Saturday Night Live.  Rhodes current projects include putting together a series of 5-minute webisodes, which she has never done before, called What About Jan? A story about a woman who does what it takes to get a certain man in the office to notice her. She maintains her Website www.amyrhodes.com and is currently shopping around a dating advice book that she and Safi have written. So, the girl is busy doing what she loves.

Rhodes advises other scribes to write everyday. It does not matter how many pages a day as long as it's a daily ritual. She strongly recommends writing in your own voice and not to compromise. As for Rhodes, unless her brain completely stops the creative flow she has had since she first picked up a pen, she has no plans to stop. She is always excited about what she's writing at the time

'Write what you want to write. That is the biggest thing I have learned in my year of being in LA so many people all the time are saying 'you should write this, you should write that.' I have been happy writing what I want to write and being able to do what I want to do that's key for me.'

Last chance to see Three Companeros at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave. in Hollywood, Thursday, May 17. Tickets are $5. For reservations call (323) 908-8702. Log on to, www.myspace.com/threecompaneros

 

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