Meet and Greet — co-written by longtime TV veterans Stan Zimmerman (Roseanne) and Christian McLaughlin (Married with Children) and directed by Zimmerman — is set in a casting office in the San Fernando Valley.
The play revolves around the competition among four middle-aged actresses for a plum role on a new TV sitcom. It’s a storyline that offers opportunity not just for laughs but for a trenchant critique of a frequently malodorous industry. (There have been plenty of these already, but there’s always room for one more good one.)
Instead, the show evolves into a lame lampoon in which stale gags and weary clichés outnumber the funny lines.
The prime force behind the humor is the clash of personalities among the women. First to arrive is Margo (Carolyn Hennesy), an elegant and snooty stage actress with a distinguished resume. Accustomed to fawning, Margo seeks assurance from the smarmy, brown-nosing casting assistant (Brendan Robinson) that she won’t have to read; for a talent of her magnitude, this occasion is merely a “meet and greet.”
But Margo notes she does have competition — including Belinda (Vicki Lewis), a drug-addled manic talker who dresses like a hippie; Belinda’s nemesis, Teri (Teresa Ganzel), a blonde bimbo whom Belinda holds responsible for derailing her career; and Desiree (Daniele Gaither), a tough street gal who scored it big in reality TV.
How and why these four very different ladies come to be vying for the same role (in a business where typecasting and “getting the right look” is standard) is a piece of illogic not addressed till near the end. The explanation comes in the form of an even more illogical twist.
The show’s limitations are evident from the start, however, and have to do with (among other things) directorial pacing and the performers’ posturing and delivering their lines as if they were in a sitcom. The show’s intimate venue notwithstanding, I felt as if I were sitting in a studio audience viewing a run-through of a TV show instead of in a theater watching a stage play.
Among the ensemble, Lewis comes off the best, less given to mugging and caricature than some of her fellow performers. The most viable scene is one between Lewis’ raging Belinda and Ganzel’s guileless dimwit, which hints at something real.
Theatre Asylum-Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; through Sept. 21. www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Public Spectacle, L.A. Weekly's arts & culture blog, on Facebook and Twitter: