created by Eugene Pack
developed by Pack and Dayle Reyfel
directed by Dale Franzen
The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage at
the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center
one-night only August 21,
with upcoming performances in New York
The 2009 Drama Desk award-winning Celebrity Autobiography has turned the tell all motto into a fresh theatrical experience. There is a disclaimer at the top: we couldn't make this stuff up! and We're not trying to be mean...they wrote 'em! They being the celebrities who wrote the words being spoken by an eclectic array of comic actors. In this edition, the actors were creator Eugene Pack (pictured), Fred Willard, Roger Bart, Tate Donovan, Will Forte, co creator Dayle Reyfel, Jennifer Tilly, Laraine Newman and Illeana Douglas, all bringing an individual dramatically comedic flair to the mostly dynamic proceedings.
What makes this evening particularly enjoyable, at least for the reader side of me, is that the actor saying the words aloud makes it an entirely different experience. You can read silently, but the words have new meaning when spoken out loud. And different including the slant. I might read, for example, Melissa Gilbert's anecdote about meeting Rob Lowe and falling in love with him and feel great sympathy for her when he turns his affections to Nastassja Kinski, but when Illeana Douglas read the section aloud from Gilbert's Prairie Tale, it became a three act drama putting Gilbert's sincerity and likability into very serious question. America's sweetheart transformed into the latest American shrew. The same with handsome David Hasselhoff from his autobio Don't Hassel the Hoff. I have watched the dvd of his Broadway success Jekyll & Hyde and been very impressed with his skill, but when Fred Willard read his pleas to the stage manager in the wings to please make him aware of when he was supposed to be Jekyll and when to be Hyde, I had to laugh and question this H's intelligence - is he maybe really the dumb Baywatch lifeguard he has always been made out to be?
Other favorite highlights included: Roger Bart's Vanna White from Vanna Speaks. (speaking of Wheel of Fortune) "Sure it's not the most intellectually challenging job in the world. Few jobs are!"; Dayle Reyfel's Diana Ross from Secrets of a Sparrow "Rain and woman were one ... in a wet dream, and it was all right"; Laraine Newman reading Madonna's erotic description of a lover who gave her crabs, "You win some, you lose some"; Eugene Pack from Burt Reynolds' My Life about Sally Field being the worst loser; all the women essaying the early poems of Suzanne Sommers. The Celebrity Mashup segment was a hoot with Newman doing Cher; Douglas, Streisand; Bart, Dolly Parton and Pack, George Hamilton - all discussing diets, junk food, and the like with Parton's quip the most hilarious, "What's more disgusting? Spitting out my food - not spitting up, spitting out, or having a lard ass?" The Grand Finale, a dramatization on friendship/marriage/love incorporating Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton was also memorable with Reyfel as Reynolds, Tilly as Taylor, Pack as Fisher, Willard as Burton, Bart as Mike Todd and Will Forte underused announcing Taylor's various spouses.
Most everyone likes to read celebrity autobiographies or at least gossip about their content. For those that just cannot get enough celebrity gossip, Celebrity Autobiography, a kind of improv show with a twist, is a genuinely laugh-out-loud, audience-grabbing entertainment. And it certainly stands to reason - the funnier the actors, the material will come off ... that much funnier! Don't miss its upcoming New York return engagements.