There’s nothing new under the sun, or in fact, under the Hollywood sign. The movie biz’s penchant for endlessly recycling itself is parodied in the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s show Completely Hollywood (abridged).
Just as you may have sat through the movie “The Hangover Part II” and wondered “Whoa, haven’t I seen this before?,” in the case of Completely Hollywood, it is also déjà vu all over again. The show played at the Kennedy Center last year and returns with pretty much the same material and sense of inspired lunacy.
The three-man troupe consisting of Dominic Conti, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor take audiences on a whiz-bang tour of Tinseltown rules and redundancies, as well as referring to 187 great Hollywood films in 90 minutes. Their abridged celluloid history should appeal to fans of their other shows The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), The Complete History of America (abridged), and The Bible (abridged). A new to Washington offering, The Complete World of Sports (abridged), runs at the Terrace July 5th to 24th.
No 3-D wizardry or 360-shots of Thor wielding his mighty hammer for these guys. Armed with flashlights, wooden crates, water bottles and their trademark adept physical comedy, Reduced Shakespeare use deliciously low-tech methods to replicate expensive Hollywood special effects. Mr. Conti sticks his head through a hole in a placard and roars like the MGM lion. Harrowing cliff-hanger chase scenes are reproduced using dolls plopped into buckets of water. The troupe enlists a few brave souls from the audience to create a cast of thousands for a crowd scene.
One of the funniest running gags has the actors reinforcing the idea that there are really only one or two movie plots by presenting mash-ups of potential blockbusters, such as Whoopi Goldberg and Lindsay Lohan starring in “Sister Act 3: Kicking the Habit,” and how “Brokeback Mountain” is really “True Grit” blended with “The Bird Cage.”
The first half of the show runs down the Hollywood maxims—“Never Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Movie,” “Show It, Don’t Say It”—and the second part shows this “wisdom” in action with a combination of all three performers’ screenplays that teams an athlete’s bio-pic musical with a sci-fi Western and a socially conscious message flick. Among the memorable moments, Al Gore drops by to pontificate about global warming, interrupting a “High Noon”-style shootout; later the trio indulges in the requisite cute musical montage set to a bouncy ‘80s pop tune.
This satire of “the ultimate weapon of mass distraction” is largely sunny and kid-friendly, especially for fans of Three Stooges spit-takes, visual puns, and bops to the groin. Some of the most winning moments occurred when the actors deviated from the script, such as when Mr. Conti jumped from the stage and seized the Skittles bag rattled by a girl in the first row, demonstrating just how loud and distracting her behavior was by crackling the wrapper against a microphone. “That’s what it sounds like on stage,” he said, adding “Bummer, man. That’s so rude!” when he went for a candy and saw the bag was empty. Mr. Tichenor also said to the audience “This isn’t TV—we can see you,” looking pointedly at the young woman in Row 3 tapping away on her tablet computer through Act One, seemingly oblivious that live theater was going on two feet in front of her eyes.
That Completely Hollywood is not a flat screen experience was perhaps lost on many patrons, many of whom apparently have living rooms astonishingly the size and shape of the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater and who seem to have the capacity to seat hundreds of strangers nightly in their homes. That could only explain the number of audience members keeping up a loud running commentary throughout the show, and getting up and wandering around the aisles whenever the spirit moved them. Somebody needs to get medieval on their asses.
The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Completely Hollywood (abridged)
Written and directed by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, with additional material by Dominic Conti
Presented at the Kennedy Center
Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard
Running time: Approximately 1 hour, 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
- Erica Laxson . MDTheatreGuide