Movies are obviously something playwright Robert Patrick knows a lot about. In his play Hollywood at Sunset, he describes two young male lovers in the throes of a 1990s Hollywood world. Their relationship includes more fights and quick one-liners than most couples' entire lifetimes. Who knew that Tom Cruise's performance in Interview with a Vampire would be such a hot topic in romantic comedy about gays in Hollywood? One thing is clear: Patrick's writing is genius and deserves to be experienced.
Penn (Kevin Held) is a screenwriter for television who is closeted on the job. He spends most of his time watching old movies and then quoting his favorite lines in arguments with his partner Aron (played fabulously by Graham Fulmer). Aron feels neglected in the relationship and makes every attempt to make his unhappiness known to Penn, until he finally has enough in the first act, deciding to walk out. Aron is the scared one; Penn is confused. During this time away, career-first Penn takes a writing job in Australia for a year to elevate his position in the industry, while Aron stays home in Hollywood (oh, yeah ... they got back together) and takes on a deliciously vague relationship with his trainer, Duse (whom the audience never sees but hears a lot about). In the final act, Penn and Aron seem to have gotten what they both wanted outside their relationship, and the play ends with the initial emotions and fears from each partner being swapped.
Held returned to the TOSOS II stage after playing winning small supporting roles in Street Theater and A Perfect Relationship. In this leading role, the young actor had a golden opportunity to spread his wings in a role worthy of his talents. Penn is that lanky, sexy boyfriend who gets ignored after the first year of a monogamous relationship. Held's comedic timing was astounding.
Fulmer's portrayal of Aron came across as stiff and uncomfortable in the first act, but then it seemed that this added to his awkward charm. Putting up with almost every silly idea coming out of Penn's mouth earned him status equal to Mother Teresa.
In the final scene, when Aron is off to Duse's apartment to feed his dogs, Penn decides to come with him out of curiosity. As they leave, Aron receives a call from Duse telling him that he's at his apartment in Hollywood unexpectedly and needs Aron to come over. Aron looks down and expresses his doubt about whether Penn should come with him after all. That scene in itself was a shining moment in theatre.
"I'm confused," he says. "I'm scared," Penn replies.
Barry Childs did an expert job of directing with the limited space he was allotted in the Flatiron Playhouse.
Michael Muccio's set design was quaint and made a comfortable Hollywood apartment, while Mary Louise Mooney provided simple but perfect costuming for the actors. (Penn's putting his baseball cap on backwards during the call from Australia was a powerful detail that added to the separation between the two men caused by a heavy work schedule.)
Morry Campbell's sound design, which provided great scenes from old movies at the top of the show to which Penn knows all the lines, was also wonderful. Jessica Hinkle's lighting design was sensitive and added to the emotional drama.
Three acts should be enough of any play. But in the case of Hollywood at Sunset, the audience only seemed to want more of Robert Patrick and his internally damned boys.
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Copyright 2004 Jade Esteban Estrada