Friday, February 06, 2009

Rich and Famous at A.C.T.

The 1970s sense of humor seemed so cool at the time. Shows like Laugh-In were so hip and cool. Their over the top silliness full of innuendo and a kind of wacky pessimistic existentialism had viewers tuning in by the millions. Playwrights like Christopher Durang and John Guare wrote plays that reflected this trend in humor. Perhaps born out of the fatigue and meaninglessness of the Viet Nam war, this type of campy humor was a subtle way giving the finger to society.

Unfortunately, now in 2009, it proves exhausting and repetitive. It just doesn't work anymore, and unfortunately, A.C.T.'s latest production by John Guare, "Rich and Famous" proves this. Guare wrote this play in the mid-70s. He updated it slightly for his production but not enough. I found myself mentally fatigued and exhausted by the repetitive "wackiness" that seemed to never let up. I wanted to love the play. There were quite a few very funny moments. But I left the theatre feeling cheated. In the end the play has no message. It demands razor sharp concentration from the audience but it gives nothing other than the message, "material success is meaningless". Been there, done that. It's just old news.


Playwright Bing Ringling yearns to savor the sweet taste of celebrity, and he's hoping play number 844 will be his lucky break. But on opening night, Bing slips into a nightmarish phantasmagoria that shows him just how wrong things can go. From the ingenious mind of John Guare, who brought Six Degrees of Separation and The House of Blue Leaves to the American stage, Rich and Famous springs to life with twisted humor, rapid-fire dialogue, and outrageous songs scribed by Guare himself.

John Rando (A.C.T.'s Urinetown, The Musical and Broadway's The Wedding Singer) directs this newly revised, delicious dark comedy in its first major revival since its 1976 New York debut. Brooks Ashmanskas, who was nominated for a 2007 Tony Award for Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me and has appeared in The Producers and Gypsy, takes on the role of Bing, starring alongside Mary Birdsong (Reno 911! on Comedy Central, Hairspray on Broadway), Stephen DeRosaHairspray and Into the Woods on Broadway), and A.C.T. core acting company member Gregory Wallace ('Tis Pity She's a Whore and The Government Inspector). (

“Rich and Famous” plays Jan. 8 through Feb. 8 at 415 Geary St., San Francisco. Tickets are $14-$82. Call 415-749-228 or visit

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