Joe Hanrahan’s latest effort, Tinsel Town, is thoroughly delightful in its world premiere by The Midnight Company.
The script is a sequence of three two-characters dialogues that take place in Los Angeles within a single 24-hour period. Hanrahan and Ellie Schwetye play the two parts in each segment.
The first play, “Late Lunch on Melrose,” begins at 1:30 p.m. Beverly Montclair is waiting impatiently for Bobby Daniels at the restaurant where they have arranged to meet for lunch. Bobby’s lateness is only a small part of Beverly’s distress. She is a movie star whose career has been derailed by the pandemic, and she is hoping for a lifeline from Bobby, who is her agent. The last thing she wants him to see, of course, is her desperation.
Schwetye captures Beverly’s underlying insecurity as well as her prima donna-ish personality. Hanrahan’s Bobby artfully scrambles to feed his client’s fragile ego without setting off her temperament.
The clock advances to 12:15 a.m. for “Just Off Sunset.” This conversation is a marked contrast to the previous one. The characters meet by chance, and the atmosphere is amicable.
Teenah Davis is a singer-songwriter trying to make a comeback. She runs into Hank Riley outside a club where she has just finished a discouraging set. He is a session musician who has worked with the best but is currently out of work. The gradual bonding of the two performers over their shared love of music is beautifully captured in both the writing and the performances.
The clock advances to 12:40 p.m., and the humor regains its edge for “Shoot in Santa Monica.” Richard Hoffman is a veteran of the British stage who has been cast in his first Hollywood movie. His ludicrous costume leaves no doubt about the fatuousness of the science fiction movie in which he is playing Earth’s leader. Eager do his best in spite the material, Richard repeatedly seeks guidance from his director, Susan Dmitri, but her attention is elsewhere. His commitment and her nonchalance come to a delight intersection thanks to excellent performances of clever dialogue.
Each play is ideally supported by Rachel Tibbetts’ direction, Erik Kuhn set and lighting, Elizabeth Henning’s costumes, and Michael Musgrave-Perkins’ video. Although the three plays tell separate stories, there is a thread connecting them. Discovering it is a joy.
—By Gerry Kowarsky
Photo by Joey Rumpell