“L.A. Deli” is a series of sketches which take place in yes, a delicatessen, meticulously designed by Jeffrey P. Eisenmann. The set is authentic down to every detail, including the requisite mustard, ketchup, salt, pepper, sweet & low, and napkins placed on each table with Michael Gend’s Lighting Design, Chris Moscatiello’s Sound and Michael Mullen’s Costume Design all contributing to the excellent production values.
There’s nothing as authentic as an insider look at the fickle, cockeyed, sometimes treacherous waters of Hollywood and Sam Bobrick’s evening of sketches, under the crack direction of Walter Painter and his remarkable cast, he takes us on a hilarious ride through the not-so-wonderful world of tinsel town. Based on actual events experienced by the playwright and some of his colleagues, as well as eavesdropping on conversations at the next table, we meet a cross section of characters inhabiting that universe, ranging from studio executives, agents, film and television producers, writers, and directors to wives and ex-wives willing to give sex advice to the new spouse.
The fun begins with the first sketch called “The Pitch.” A young writer named David (Scott Kruse) is excited about his latest script which revolves around two men sharing a jail cell and begins to tell the story line to studio executive J.B. (Phil Proctor.) But, before David can get two sentences out, J.B. begins to immediately change the storyline, making it revolve around a couple in a department store. By the time he finishes the writer’s story, it bears no resemblance to the original idea. David is very upset, but when J.B. offers him tens of thousands of dollars for the first draft, he immediately agrees to write the new version of his story. David wants to pitch the script himself, but J.B. dismisses that saying “You’re a writer – you don’t look important.” When David exits, J.B. wonders out loud “Now who can I get to do the rewrite.”
This would be a good time to introduce the waitress Kathleen, played to perfection by Gail Matthius. Her character is the only one that appears in ten of the twelve sketches. With pencils stuck in her hair and her order pad in hand, she dutifully takes the orders, giving her opinion about what to avoid. If you’ve ever been in a Jewish deli, you will definitely recognize her portrayal.
In “The Actor & The Agent” sketch Jimmy (Scott Kruse) a rising young actor is taking a meeting with slimy Ted, an agent (Jeffrey Landman) who is trying to lure Jimmy away from his current agent. Jimmy is torn as he feels a responsibility to his present agent who has orchestrated his career. Ted overcomes that “objection” by saying, “This is Hollywood. Don’t expect loyalty except from a Golden Retriever.” As in almost all the sketches, there is a final surprising “gottcha!”
One of the most amusing sketches is “The Big Lie” which centers on an older man named Harry (Phil Proctor) married to Babette, his trophy wife (Darrin Revitz.) Harry orders a salad with no croutons and the dressing on the side. Babette is clearly very angry and is working up a head of steam. She spurts out that she wants a divorce. Why? Because she found out that Harry is much younger than he told her and she snarls, “I married you because I thought you were old, adding “You cannot build a relationship on lies or deceit.” Her original plan was to become a young rich widow, but now, with him living longer than she expected, she would be an old rich widow! She chastises him for taking such care of himself and in a desperate attempt to save his marriage, Harry promises to stop going to the gym and is willing to change his eating habits by eating cheeseburgers and French fries. She is adamant in her decision and ends the lunch with, “Sorry. I can’t count on you to die soon!” Any first wife who was dumped for a bimbo, trophy wife, will derive special joy in seeing the tables turned.
In “The Funeral,” two friends stop by the deli after attending a funeral. Brian (Jeffrey Landman) and Marty (Scott Kruse) discuss the fact that, “No one cried.” “Can you blame them? He was head of Disney!” The cause of death? “It wasn’t suicide. He had a knife in his back.” As the conversation continues, very colorful words are used to describe the deceased, illuminating the hypocrisy that is part and parcel of the Hollywood scene.
Some of the other sketches include an outrageous pitch for a movie called “Jane and the Beanstalk” with Angelina Jolie as Jane, but in the event she’s not available, it was suggested Oprah could play Jane climbing up the beanstalk. It was also suggested that the Kardashians could play the munchkins because “They’d do anything for money.”
Other themes include a meeting between a contract killer and a husband who wants to get rid of his wife; (Phil Proctor and Jeffrey Landman;) an aging actress who tries to stay young through multiple plastic surgeries; (Rachel Boller, Jeffrey Landman, Scott Kruse, and Phil Proctor;) and the firing of a studio head, (Rachel Boller and Phil Proctor.)
Perhaps the most poignant sketch is the last one, “The Waitress” with Kathleen, (Gail Matthius) and Bob (Phil Proctor) wherein she recalls her former life as Rosie, when she was married and had children whom she left to become an actress, and the resultant disappointing Hollywood experience. To riff on that iconic theme from the television show “Naked City,” “There are thousands of stories like this in the City of Angels.”
Most of the twelve sketches are tightly written and director Painter, working with his very talented ensemble, moved the evening along at a brisk pace, while fully servicing Bobrick’s take on Hollywood. Each of the versatile actors, except for Kathleen the waitress, plays multiple roles and smoothly transitioned into each character in virtually a split second, creating a totally different person. Their uniformly remarkable virtuosity is a fabulous acting lesson for actors in the process of learning their craft.
Although Bobrick’s script is hysterically funny, shooting off barbs in rapid succession, at its heart is a searing send-up of the entertainment industry. It’s clear that the playwright has experienced some of these incredulous, rather heartbreaking moments himself, but in choosing a comic approach to illuminating the fads and foibles and disappointments inherent in the industry, he leaves us laughing, but at the same time, makes us aware of the ends to which one must go in the pursuit of that elusive brass ring and the elusive nature of staying in the winner’s circle.
Marilyn Monroe Theatre
Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute
7936 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA
(one block west of Fairfax)
Run: Friday and Saturday - 8:00pm
Saturday and Sunday - 3:00 pm
Closing: Sunday, April 27, 2014
323- 960-7738 or