Live the fantasy

Flirting With Reality

By Suzanne Bachner
Directed by Trish Minskoff
John Montgomery Theatre Company
Red Room
85 E. 4th St. (; 212/868-4444)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 14)
Review by Charles Battersby

“Where do they get these people?” That’s what a lot of people wonder when watching reality TV. Is there some poor bastard whose job it is to troll through society in search of photogenic idiots to appear on these shows? Well, Suzanne Bachner’s new comedy Flirting With Reality offers a peek inside the audition process behind the reality phenomenon.

Flirting with Reality is a clever two-person comedy about a casting agent and her assistant who are tasked with recruiting people to appear on a reality dating show called The Love Limo. We never actually see footage of The Love Limo, but there’s enough exposition to let the audience know that it’s a lot like MTV’s Next, or Blind Date, or Hunks, or the horde of other shows where drunken loudmouth idiots are crammed together to compete in mating rituals. Flirting… is less concerned with the on-air shenanigans than it is with how those shenanigans are contrived.

In Flirting… Felicia Scarangello plays Claudia, a bitchy casting agent, while Alexander R. Warner plays her new cameraman Jay, who’s actually an aspiring documentary filmmaker. The two are out to find the right mix of societal archetypes who’ll be guaranteed to conflict with each other, given the opportunity.

Even though these two characters are fun to watch, the real pleasure of this show is watching the cast play the four-dozen other characters who are auditioning for The Love Limo. That’s right, a whopping 20-something roles for each actor. Scarangello excelled at the many drunken floozies she played and Warner stood out as a creepy stalker, looking for his next obsession, and also when playing an insecure girl too.

Minskoff's direction eased the audience into the notion of Scarangello and Warner’s playing all these different roles; the first couple of times they changed character, they made a quick costume change, but eventually the two were popping in and out of zany characters on the fly, and it was completely believable.

Kimo DeSean’s set wasn’t elaborate, but it was a spot-on recreation of a studio where such an audition might be held, complete with a backdrop with a cheesy-looking logo for The Love Limo show (Love Limo logo credited to John Chidiac).

Despite the fact that it’s a comedy, the play does get a bit serious at times, and makes some points about the conflicts in the entertainment industry between those trying to make art, and those who are trying to make a bunch of money (and how the two goals aren’t always mutually exclusive). There are several turnabouts in the final moments of the show, which seem thrown in just for the sake of having some sort of twist. They don’t do a whole lot for the story, and the show is just great even when taken on its most superficial level, without any deep insights into the secret goals of its characters.

Given the exceptional performances, and genuinely funny script, Flirting With Reality is a great choice for a bit of funny business, especially for those who hate reality TV.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Charles Battersby