Ready for prime time
Kidnapping Laura Linney
Written by Philip
Directed by Nadia Wahhab
Presented by MU Productions (www.kidnappinglauralinney.com)
International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org)
Dorothy Strelsin Theatre,
Equity showcase (through
Review by Byrne Harrison
Given that Kidnapping Laura Linney is at heart a loving tribute to and dead on send up of sitcoms, it's no surprise that the story is really just an artificial construct used to showcase the characters. A couple of lovable losers, Josh (Philip Mutz) and his recently-cut-off-by-his- parents roommate, Steve (Chris Critelli), write and cast themselves in a sitcom script about a couple of lovable losers who are planning to kidnap actress Laura Linney. Their show gets picked up by a network and almost immediately shut down by Linney herself, who goes so far as to demand that the network never again work with Josh and Steve. Their ambitions thwarted, they set out to get revenge – naturally, by kidnapping Laura Linney.
The play is very funny and pokes gentle fun at slackers, actors (especially the pretentious ones), sitcoms, celebrities and psycho girlfriends.
The acting is uniformly good, though admittedly, Raisa Ellingson, who plays Trisha, an actress who is cast in the sitcom and briefly becomes Josh's roommate, doesn't get a lot to do. The meatiest role goes to Alley Scott, as Carla, the wild-eyed Thespian With A Capital T who plays Josh and Steve against each other in hopes of getting her shot at stardom. Scott is terrific in the role – a slightly wacky and off-kilter Lady Macbeth. Critelli and Mutz play the crass, hapless duo to great acclaim. Both actors have strong comic timing and are able to get laughs based on their expressions alone. While each actor shines, especially in their one-on-one scenes with Scott, it is in their scenes together where they do their best work. There is a great best friend vibe between the two, and they riff off each other with great ease.
Director Nadia Wahhab trusts the script and her actors, letting the dialogue and situations set the timing. The theatre is tiny, but she nonetheless makes great use of the small playing area and Philip Mutz's set (he wears multiple hats in this production – playwright/actor/set designer). Amazingly, given that this is a festival and as such probably had a short rehearsal time, the production is in fine form, including Ben Horner's sound design (especially good during the sitcom scenes) and Scott Needham's lighting.
His bio notes mention that Kidnapping Laura Linney is the first of Mutz's full-length plays to be produced. If this is a taste of what is to come, he is definitely a playwright to watch. That is…if some sitcom doesn't snatch him up first.
Copyright 2008 by Byrne Harrison
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