In 1988, John Patrick Shanley won an Academy Award for his screenplay for Moonstruck. In 2008, he was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for the screenplay adaptation of his Tony-winning play Doubt. In the interim -- which included his big-budget flop, Joe Versus the Volcano -- it seems that Shanley developed a love-hate relationship with Hollywood.
In 1993, Shanley's Four Dogs and a Bone was produced off-Broadway. In the spirit of Hurly-Burly and Speed-the-Plow, this satirical, nihilistic portrayal of Hollywood is currently playing at Off the Wall Theater.
"I know that his movie is too long and too expensive and I'll be God-damned if I'm gonna let the completion-bond company come in," the producer, Bradley (Howard Elson), tells the actress Brenda (Erika Cuenca) as they discuss their plan for screenwriter Victor (Michael Moats) to make revisions. Bradley wants Victor to cut scenes to lower production costs. Brenda, who's sleeping with Victor, wants him to write her character into the leading role.
Meanwhile, Collette (Rachel Downie), a fading Broadway star, manipulates a meeting with Victor to secure her own starring role, which also requires him to rewrite scenes. Collette attempts to seduce him but Victor, although drunk, is on to her: "Believe me, it never occurred to me that you wanted to suck my dick because you actually wanted to suck my dick," he tells her. Collette admits, "Nobody wants to suck someone's dick just to suck their dick. Everything is about something else."
Under the direction of Linda Haston, the acting and comic timing of this Off the Wall production are superb. Howard Elson plays Bradley with shrewd cunning wit as the man you love to hate but can't help feeling a little sorry for. Michael Moats is utterly enmeshed in the role of Victor -- he's both aloof (in a good way) and remarkably resolute. Rachel Downie portrays Collette as the girl who is "still trying to be liked," yet has become the aging ingénue who will trample anyone in her path. And Erika Cuenca's Brenda conveys the manic insanity of a woman desperate to find personal validation through fame.
Four Dogs and a Bone continues through Fri., May 22. Off the Wall Theater, 147 N. Main St., Washington, Pa. 724-873-3576 or insideoffthewall.com.