Or How I Got Eaten Alive on American Television and Lived to Tell About It.
An American Farce
Written By Tom Cavanaugh
The Big Snake is a play within a play about a man destined to be ‘within’ a snake…quite literally.
Written by Tom Cavanaugh, the award winning playwright, has chosen The Hollywood Fringe to premier his latest play, and I have to say I think it’s the perfect setting for this absurdist farce, poking not so subtle fun at the American obsession with so called ‘reality’ TV.
A reality TV producer, Justin, played by Mykee Selkin, is suffering from a crushing case of creative block and in desperation, he and his wife Corinne, played by Jen Faith Brown, encouraged by a purposefully vile Hollywood studio head “Mr Big,” played by Steven Wollenberg, head off to the jungles of South America to make a show about adventurer Jake “The Snake” Le Petomane, played by Damien Luvara. Jake is as slimy as his namesake, and quickly slithers his way into Corinne’s heart, leaving Justin to the mercy of an Amazon tribe of cannibal women, one of whom assists them all in locating the giant snake Justin is seeking for his show. The idea being that Jake will get himself swallowed by the snake and Justin and Corrine will force the snake to vomit him back up again...huge ratings, money galore and Justin is back on top.
Of course once Jake and Corrine hook up, nothing goes according to plan. All this wonderful chaos is witnessed not just by us, the audience, but by another audience, up on stage, made up of an overly romantic playgoer, a patron of the arts, a discount ticket holder and a critic. Believe me I could see the irony in that character choice.
And so we have the play within a play within a TV reality show, or rather the making of one. Orchestrating all of this, along with the interruptions and whingings of the various “audience” members is the director, played by Bob Telford, who also produced the play.
Well what can I say…once you throw yourself in to the self depreciating humor, the messy frankness of the staging and the constant attempt to balance what is real, what is pretending to be real and the sense that anything could and probably can happen, and just let go, The Big Snake is thoroughly enjoyable.
This play is a really interesting, surreal and absurdist commentary of the ridiculousness of the entertainment industry and our attempts to justify its existence. It is fast and frantic, but also purposefully framed by the director character’s hopeful attempts to make sense of something utterly nonsensical. Which is the best part of the whole thing, in my humble opinion.
It’s so interesting how we can construct ‘reason’ to fit our illogical and unreasonable worlds, and when that falls apart we busily reconstruct and search for meaning in the chaos, as if we have any kind of understanding of it.
The actors skillfully navigate their way through the tangle of plot and crazy and manage somehow to never seem silly, and always remain calm and observational amidst the frolicking Amazons and the tense sexual stand offs. I loved the juxtaposition of the audience and the play and the reality TV nonsense that pushes the story along. It felt a bit like King Kong was really a man in a suit and he wanted to renegotiate his contract…more bananas I guess.
If you have a penchant for a little oddness and satire, I can highly recommend The Big Snake, at The Ruby Theatre at The Complex. 6476 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles CA 90038
The show runs:
Saturday, June 11th 2016 at 6:30pm Friday, June 17th 2016 at 7:00pm Sunday, June 19th 2016 at 5:00pm Friday, June 24th 2016 at 8:30pm
Bob Telford as The Director, Allen Steele as The Critic, Marina Palmiere as The Patron of the Arts, De Ann Odom as The Romantic and Mary Cavaliere as The Ticket Buyer with Mykee Selkin as Justin, Jen Faith Brown as Corinne, Damien Luvara as Jake the Snake, Steve Wollenberg as The Announcer & Mr. Big, Anita Leeman as Janet. Sound Design by Edwin Telford.