Sunday, April 21, 2024

My birthday, gone ‘Completely Hollywood’

When I spoke with Richard Jay Simon, the artistic director at Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre, a couple of weeks before the opening of his theater’s latest play “Completely Hollywood (Abridged),” I let news slip that the opening of the show would fall on my 28th birthday, Sept. 10.

“Oh, thanks for telling me,” Simon said. “We’ll have to find some way to embarrass you, then.”

Great. Honestly, I forgot all about this exchange and assumed that Simon, swamped with the opening of his season, would forget too. I hadn’t taken the Facebook Factor into consideration. Simon is my friend on the site, and anyone familiar with Facebook knows that birthdays do not go unnoticed.

Anyway, my girlfriend and I show up on opening night, and it’s a real Hollywood spectacle. You pick up your tickets at a newly installed box office outside the auditorium, then walk a red carpet, underneath a marquee, to get to your seat.

The play, written and produced by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, is a manic, totally bonkers three-actor lampooning of 197 Hollywood movies in about 90 minutes. It’s silly and absurd, full of cross-dressing, funny accents, ridiculous props and humor that’s unabashedly flatulent and proudly corny (Case in point: the trio’s movie mutations include “Gandhi With the Wind” and “Taxi Driving Miss Daisy”). But buried beneath all the silliness are some astute observations about Hollywood formulas, clichés and excesses, delivered with both snark and reverence by the terrific cast of Christian Rockwell, Antonio Amadeo and Erik Fabregat (who performed on opening night dispute being in a car accident the night before!).

So we’re about 10 minutes into the second act, and I thought I’d gotten off scot-free. But soon enough, Rockwell came up with the idea to pluck a “stand-in” out of the audience to appear onstage while Fabregat’s “director” films a blond-bewigged Amadeo in a reverse shot. Rockwell went immediately for me, pulling me from my second-row aisle seat.

Stage fright is not an uncommon phobia for me; I can report that my only “C” in college was in speech class. But it wasn’t long before I was onstage readingactual lines from a piece of paper handed to me. It was a faux-dramatic monologue comprised of a dozen or so film titles jumbled together in a semi-coherent speech. It was the same speech Rockwell performed with melodramatic aplomb moments before, only with a small change. Trying my best to replicate his passionate overacting, I’m really getting into it, reciting these identical lines with a rush of adrenaline, eventually reading the comic kicker: “I am never sitting so close to the stage again!”

And everybody laughed. The place erupted. I still can’t believe it. I’ve heard about the feeling of satisfaction actors or comedians experience when they’re able to make audiences laugh, and it is indeed a thrill I won’t soon forget. At the end of the play, many patrons complemented me on my “performance,” one asking if I had done any acting work. Mary Damiano, Carbonell judge and critic for South Florida Gay News, said that the people behind her assumed I was a professional “plant.” What a birthday!

“Completely Hollywood (Abridged)” is at Mosaic Theatre at American Heritage Center for the Arts, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation. Tickets are $37 adults, $31 seniors and $15 students. Call 954/577-8243.

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