Let’s not spend too much time on this unfortunate production. From the tip of its scalp to the bottom of its tippy-toes, The Foley Artist reeks of amateurism, and not in a good way. The plot is lame, the dialogue is banal, and the acting is, to put it mildly, uninspired. Not only is it set in the Great Depression, it is the Great Depression.
Patrick Daniels (Andrew McCord) is a multi-voiced radio actor who cannot find his voice when he pitches woo to the ladies. He longs to romance the sweet new ingénue, Ella Saunders (Tess Pohlhaus), but her beauty makes him tongue-tied. What’s more, the swinish radio-drama lead, Ethan Coventry (Dan Franko) has his eye on Ella too. Patrick is truly in a pickle until the Foley artist, Aaron James (Michael Ridgaway), offers him a solution: he, Aaron James, will feed Patrick lines to pitch at Ms. Saunders if Patrick will get their windbag of a boss (Nick Rose) to read a script which James has written.
Sound familiar? Of course it does. But Cyrano de Bergerac never climbed under the restaurant table where Christian was having dinner with Roxanne, and there stage-whispered his advice to his hapless protégé. And Cyrano never pretended to be a waiter and spilled wine on the antagonist, or jumped on the antagonist’s shoulders and bit him, pretending to be a spider. Nor did he go through any of the half-dozen other moronic antics through which playwright Mike Meagher drags his characters.
Afterward, the Cyrano motif is abandoned, and the play staggers toward a conclusion. It turns out that Ella is as smitten with Patrick as he with her, and he could have said anything to her. The romantic part concluded, the play gives itself over to comic revenge, which mostly consists of a drunk Coventry (looking, for no discernable reason, as though he has just slow-danced with a wildcat) chasing James around the set. At one point the boss, pressed into service as the Foley artist in order to create the sounds of a swordfight, witlessly plays all the instruments at his disposal and makes a cacophony. Why would he do that? Who cares?
Because the plot of The Foley Artist is so awful, Meagher is obliged to make the plots of the radio shows being broadcast even worse. He succeeds. At the top of the show they are doing a story about a superhero who becomes half man, half bee. He is fighting a villain named the Horny Hornet. The other shows are even worse. James’ script, which is supposed to save the radio station, is as bad as the rest of them. None of these shows would have lasted a week on real radio; some of them might have been pulled mid-broadcast.
The characters are all given one note, and the actors faithfully sound that note – sometimes at an unbearable pitch – for the course of the play. Patrick is nervous; the boss is blustery; Ella is sweet (and apparently incapable of removing her hat); Covington is insufferable; Aaron James is – well, I don’t know what he is supposed to be. I did enjoy the brief performance of Rachel M. Loose as a secretary/script girl who has the hots for Covington.
Until this year, some Fringe shows were staged in Chief Ike’s Mambo Room. I miss it. It used to be that after a show like this, you could repair to the bar and get one of their excellent Black Russians, at the very reasonable price of eight dollars, for solace and consolation. But now, at the conclusion of The Foley Artist you have no choice but to walk down the steep stairs of the Bodega, and out into the melancholy Washington night.