"The funny, affectionate 'Tinseltown' takes on Hollywood and comes out grinning"
by Tina Farmer
Dec 10, 2021
For a small, professional theater company in flyover country, the Midnight Company clearly understands Hollywood. Their new play, penned by artistic director Joe Hanrahan, is a sharp, laugh out loud funny look at Hollywood in three short, well-connected acts.
Directed by Rachel Tibbetts and featuring Harahan and Ellie Schwetye, the show examines the connections and personalities that make show business hum in “Tinseltown.” The story introduces us to three women who represent a cross section of the industry. A well-known but aging actress looking to remain busy and relevant. A singer songwriter who hopes to write songs for movies in addition to performing her one big hit. A young director who hopes to helm her passion project next. Starring the actress. With a score by the singer songwriter.
The first act introduces Schwetye as actress Beverly Montclair waiting for her agent, Hanrahan’s Bobby Daniels. Not accustomed to waiting, she’s several martinis in by the time Daniels arrives. The tipsy actress is a little louder and more honest than usual, perhaps, but she’s as self absorbed as ever. She can’t even be bothered to remember Covid or the global pandemic. To her, they’re just inconveniences keeping her from her craft.
The second act introduces us to the once-popular musician Teenah Davis and sometime rhythm guitarist Hank Riley. They bump into each other in the alley behind the bar where Davis is trying out some new material. She plans to head to the studio soon, for an album and to record some songs she’s working on for an upcoming movie. Things aren’t quite right tonight. Still, she and Riley give each other a little hope.
The third act finds us on the set of a CGI and green screen heavy sci-fi movie with a tight schedule and budget, but a very loose script. Director Susan Dmitri is eager to get today’s shoot and the entire project in the can. She has high hopes her next project will get the go ahead now that some big names – Bev Montclair and Teenah Davis – are attached. But today she needs to get Richard Hoffman, a British stage actor working on his first Hollywood film, to get this scene finished.
Each act stands alone and could easily be presented as a complete one-act play. Together, they create a triptych that humorously celebrates the people who make movies. With the two skilled actors on the stage and Tibbetts guiding the ship, each scene is stylistically different and distinct, yet clearly connected. The acts are well balanced and reference each other without dependency. Schwetye and Hanrahan have an easy, natural chemistry on stage. Each seems to genuinely enjoy the character banter. Tibbetts ensures that the interpretation and action weaves the script together as slickly as the dialogue. She uses smart pauses to briefly emphasize crossover references, helping the actors find and deliver the humor with unaffected aplomb.
The playwright peels back the shiny veneer of movie making in a similar vein as Robert Altman’s “The Player,” but gives the story a much lighter touch, and no death. There’s a lot of inherent humor about the business, but it's clearly delivered with natural, off-the-cuff ease. Harahan’s writing ensures that we’re in on every joke, from Montclair and Daniels dripping with insincerity as they call each other “darling” to Davis and Riley joking about drummers to Dmitri suggesting there’s a part in her new movie for Hoffman if they can just get this shoot wrapped. The script seamlessly marries our ideas and the reality of Hollywood in a way that embraces the funny bits and includes the audience.
The set design is simple, the soundtrack a thoughtful mix of popular tunes that reflect a southern California vibe. The costumes are straightforward and effective at establishing personality and status. The real technical highlight here is Michael Musgrave-Perkins' video backdrop. In addition to specifying each act’s location, short montages take us from one spot to the next while noting the passage of time from day, to night, to the next day. It’s a smart transition that helps draw the audience into the story of each new act.
Truth be told, “Tinseltown,” continuing through December 18, is a love story. To the magic of movies and the sometimes quirky, always interesting people who make them. The performances sparkle and snap with just the right nuance, emphasizing the show’s many funny moments with a sense of grace and genuine fondness. Smart choices and interesting, authentic characters revel in the well-crafted script, possibly Hanrahan’s best writing yet. Schwetye and Harahan are in top form and Tibbetts keeps the pace quick while playing each bit of dialogue for maximum impact. The result is a real treat to watch.
St Louis Eats
By Joe and Ann Pollack
December 4, 2021
One of the great unheralded pleasures of small theatre is small venues. The Midnight Company’s new show Tinseltown is working at the .ZACK. There are times when the black box there isn’t a good fit for a show, the sort of thing that happens with many venues due to many things. But here we have a very fine match.
Tinseltown is a new play from Midnight’s co-founder and artistic director Joe Hanrahan, under the subheading “3 short plays 24 hours in L.A.” It’s a two-hander, with Hanrahan and frequent collaborator Ellie Schwettye as various residents, either permanent or temporary, of LaLa Land.
There’s a thread running through it about a movie that is being proposed, but that’s merely an excuse for some interesting work by two accomplished actors. Schwetye is a fading diva, a musician and a director; Hanrahan is an agent, a musician and a fading British actor. Fine work from both of them, not just the broad stuff in terms of physical comedy but more subtle things. And that brings us to the venue. This is a perfect situation for taking advantage of the small venue. Sit close and watch the actors work. Look at faces when they’re not speaking. Watch what the hands and shoulders do. It’s a great way to understand how deeply actors can go into their characters, fascinating stuff.
The show is fun - I think the second of the three plays is the weakest link, but even it has that same watch-the-magic feeling. The excellent acting takes place in a physical world created by Erik Kuhn, who did the minimalist set and lighting design and Michael Musgrave-Perkins' video design. (Perkins has done quite a lot with Midnight, including the lovely A Model for Matisse.)
Rachel Tibbetts directed, keeping good pacing and a feeling of freshness despite what might be considered some cliched situtaions. Fine work there, too.
It's an opportunity to see something new, see some fine work and to really watch what happens in theatre.
Two On The Aisle
By Gerry Kowarsky
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.
St Louis Post-Dispatch
"Tinsel Town' is a showcase for spirited comic performances"
by Calvin Wilson
December 7, 2021
What is it about Hollywood that regular folks find so fascinating? Perhaps it's the idea that, with a bit of luck, anyone can become a star. Or maybe it's just too easy to be overwhelmed by the glamour and glitz. But at a time when ratings for the Oscars telecast aren't what they used to be, that California dreamland continues to cast a spell.
It also can be relied upon to inspire works such as "Tinsel Town," three loosely related one-act plays written by Joe Hanrahan and directed by Rachel Tibbetts. Taking satirical aim at Hollywood and its absurdities, the hugely entertaining Midnight Company production stars artistic director Hanrahan and Ellie Schwetye.
The first play, "Late Lunch on Melrose," involves insecure actor Beverly Montclair (Schwetye), whose dream projects have been shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hollywood agent Bobby Daniels (Hanrahan), who keeps answering his cellphone during their meeting. It doesn't help that she's skeptical of the ideas he proposes. The question is: Can she adjust to Hollywood's new normal? The play is a masterclass in comic timing.
"Just Off Sunset," the second offering, is slighter and less satisfying. Schwetye is Teenah Davis, a singer-songwriter whose attempt at a comeback only results in a bad case of the blues. Her encounter with seen-it-all session musician Hank Riley (Hanrahan) proves to be educational.
The production recovers its mojo with the third and funniest play, "Shoot in Santa Monica." Hanrahan portrays Richard Hoffman, a British actor who's determined to maintain his integrity despite being cast in a would-be science-fiction blockbuster. Schwetye plays Susan Dmitri, a first-time director who's eager to move on to another film and oblivious to Hoffman's appeals for guidance.
Hanrahan and Schwetye get inside the skins of these very different characters with seeming effortlessness. And as a playwright, Hanrahan puts a persuasive spin on the ways of La-La Land. His comic sensibility may remind theatergoers of Jules Feiffer, who is best known for his years as a Village Voice cartoonist and as screenwriter of "Carnal Knowledge" and "Little Murders".
Tibbetts is a good match for the material, generating laughs while keeping things reasonably grounded in reality. And Michael Musgrave-Perkins' video backdrops are smartly in sync with the show's theatricality.
Still, the production is best appreciated as a showcase for Hanrahan and Schwetye, who turn in spirited performances that bring the characters to vivid life. The two play off each other wonderfully.
At this point, Hollywood is hardly the freshest target for satire. But for the most part, "Tinsel Town" transcends that limitation through sheer joy of performance.
Snoop's Theatre Thoughts
"Midnight's 'Tinsel Town' Takes an Entertaining Trip to Hollywood"
By Michelle Kenyon
December 7, 2021
Los Angeles, California is like no other place on earth, both in its near-synonymous association with the entertainment business and with a specific form of quirkiness. The Midnight Company's latest production, Tinsel Town, is a suite of interconnected short plays that highlight the unique aspects of this area and with entertainment culture in the age of the pandemic. Showcasing two excellent performers, the show is a fun, alternately hilarious, critical, and insightful look at showbiz personalities and the town in which they live, work, struggle and thrive
The show is three plays in one, with its two performers, Joe Hanrahan and Ellie Schwetye, each playing a different role each time, although the stories are connected in that they are set in the same "world" representing a day in L.A. and various aspects of the entertainment industry, and through Schwetye's three characters, who each mention the others and who are working on a film project together. Even with these connections, though, the plays vary sharply in tone, from the broad comedy of the first segment: "Late Lunch on Melrose 1:30pm"; to the more humor-tinged drama of the second segment: "Just Off Sunset 12:15am"; and finally to more lighthearted comedy with the third segment "Shoot in Santa Monica 12:40pm". Each looks at "the business" from a different angle, highlighting both positive and negative aspects of the L.A. and showbiz life, particularly in the movie and music industries. The plays also all deal with artists experiencing various transitions in their careers, as Schwetye's demanding movie star Beverly Montclair deals with maybe not being considered "A-list" anymore, and getting offered different roles than she's used to by her longtime agent Bobby Daniels (Hanrahan) in the first segment; veteran singer Teenah Davis (Schwetye), who is trying to restart her career with a new band after some struggles, has a potentially fortuitous meeting with also struggling longtime session guitarist Hank Riley (Hanrahan) in an alley behind a club after a show in the second segment; and longtime British stage actor Richard Hoffman (Hanrahan) deals with nerves and cultural adjustment issues as he works on his first Hollywood film shoot for a sci-fi epic featuring villainous "space vampires" with aspiring director Susan Dmitri (Schwetye) in the third segment.
The performers here adjust impressively to the shifts in tone between the pieces, with both - and especially Schwetye - gleefully hamming it up in the hilariously over-the-top first act, as Hanrahan's fun script cleverly skewers the stereotypical "Hollywood" atmosphere and demonstrating the versatility of the word "darling". Both performers also find much poignancy in the melancholy but hopeful second segment, and then deftly return to a slightly more gentle brand of comedy in the third vignette, as Hanrahan's examination of the L.A. life trends back to the goofy side, but still maintaining a sense of hope. It's a fun show, overall, showing off the considerable talents of its two leads, as well as their versatility and sense of timing.
The L.A. atmosphere and "Hollywood" vibe are well-maintained throughout by use of excellent mood-setting music in the interludes between shows, and by Erik Kuhn's excellent lighting and minimalist set, as well as top-notch video design by Michael Musgrave-Perkins. The costumes by Elizabeth Henning are also impressive, and suit the characters especially well. Overall, this is a well-paced, superbly cast, especially memorable look at a day in the life of one of the more celebrated - and parodied - cities in the United States, and in the world.
"Midnight Company Presents Entertaining Trio of Valentines to 'Tinsel Town"
by Mark Bretz
December 9, 2021
Midnight Company founder and artistic director Joe Hanrahan scores big as playwright and performer in these three enjoyable and incisive observations about the pursuit of stardom and artistic expression in Hollywood. He also is blessed with the invaluable contributions of performer Ellie Schwetye and director Rachel Tibbetts.
"Tinsel Town" comprises a trio of tales about life in La-La Land. In "Late Lunch on Melrose", a harried Hollywood agent does his best to placate one of his major clients, a waning diva whose grand illusion of herself allows for nothing but incessant compliments and the allure of an adoring public - at least in her mind.
In "Just off Sunset", an out-of-work, veteran session musician named Hank befriends Teenah, a singer-songwriter who has just finished a set inside a nearby nightclub but is searching for the magic that can return her to stardom. Hank is familiar with Teenah's work and offers some friendly advice to the receptive singer. His genial nature may end up helping him, too.
The show concludes with "Shoot in Santa Monica", in which Richard Hoffman, an established star of British theater, is looking forward to his big break in American cinema. It's a sci-fi tale about space vampires - which its fast-charging director is hoping gives her the impetus for bigger and better assignments. They're both looking beyond outer space for more inspirational and satisfying work, but a low-budget flick is a start.
All of these characters are driven by the desire to see their names in lights, before or behind the stage and camera. You could warn them against the odds. But forget it, Jake, it's Tinsel Town.
The video design contributed by Michael Musgrave-Perkins features some panoramic views of Los Angeles that serve as a suitable backdrop for the conversations in this trio of two-character works. It richly enhances Erik Kuhn's efficient and effective scenic design, comprising a table and chairs for the first skit, a bench in the second and a small desk for the third. Kuhn also contributes the lighting.
Dialogue coach Pamela Reckamp helps Hanrahan with a right-proper English accent in the third story, while costume designer Elizabeth Henning deserves accolades for the weird and amusing spacesuit worn by the English actor, covered in table-tennis balls or whatnot, as well as Hanrahan's sleazy look as the fast-thinking agent and Schwetye's glamorous attire as faded celebrity Beverly Montclair.
The whimsical sound design by Hanrahan and Schwetye is heavy on LA references, from John Stewart's "Turning Music Into Gold" to Albert Hammond's "It Never Rains in Southern California," neatly underscoring the show's theme.
"Tinsel Town" offers a pleasing menu of two comedies bracketing a poignant little piece that is the evening's best work. There's a sweetness in the camaraderie between aging session guitarist Hank and the young, talented and hungry Teenah, who share an unexpected but perhaps mutually beneficial new friendship. Tibbetts contributes to the effect by maintaining a distance between the two players to emphasize the wariness they experience in a tough but gratifying profession.
Hanrahan weaves a common theme through all three stories to provide additional, tongue-in-cheek humor, all of it played judiciously by Schwetye and himself.
"Tinsel Town," says Hanrahan, is the culmination of three shows he, Schwetye and Tibbetts have performed, the first one ("Cuddles") with SATE (Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble) leaders Schwetye and Tibbetts directed by Hanrahan, and the second ("Little Thing Big Thing") performed by Hanrahan and Tibbetts for The Midnight Company under Schwetye's direction.
With "Tinsel Town," the circle not only is unbroken but also is expertly strengthened by the persuasive and cohesive efforts of each of its three participants. Let's go to the Sunset Grill and stare out at the auburn sky.
"Bright And Shiny 'Tinsel Town' Is Funny Look At Showbiz Foibles"
by Lynn Venhouse
December 16, 2021
The intoxicating mystique of Los Angeles, with its star-making machinery and as the Dream Factory capital in Hollywood, has enticed starry-eyed people to flock there for at least a century.
Inevitably, some become disillusioned and compare the unnatural and phony atmosphere to the shiny synthetic Christmas tree decoration, thus the derogatory L.A. nickname - "Tinsel Town."
This is also the title of local playwright Joe Hanrahan’s witty collection of three short one-acts that are an insightful and humorous view of the deals, players, sights and sounds of La-La Land. They say write what you know, and Hanrahan has cleverly captured the rhythms of the industry as a ‘company town’ in the land of swimming pools and movie stars.
The show presents three relatable scenarios that take place in a 24-hour period: "Late Lunch on Melrose," "Just Off Sunset" and "Shoot in Santa Monica."
This amusing glimpse is directed by Rachel Tibbetts, and she brightly capitalizes on the obvious chemistry between Hanrahan and the multi-faceted Ellie Schwetye. The duet work in sync, playing off each other seamlessly, which takes trust and displays their comfort with each other on stage.
The trio are true collaborators and have worked together in different capacities over the years. It's fun to watch people who mutually respect each other have fun telling stories in tandem.
Aided by Michael B. Musgrave-Perkins' stellar videography capturing the glitz, glamour, and gorgeous weather - and palm trees! - we have a keen sense of time (present) and recognizable places on a small, economical set.
An outdoor cafe is the setting for a "Late Lunch on Melrose" between a talent agent (Hanrahan) and his most famous client, a narcissistic actress (Schwetye) who is unhappy about the lack of work - and is no longer the flavor of the month. It's 1:30 p.m., and the drama queen is impatient. The pair adjust their temperaments, between air kisses, depending on who has the edge as they sip martinis.
That's the start of a tiny plot thread that will smartly unify all three parts, with the second, "Just Off Sunset," taking place at 12:15 a.m. in an alley behind a nightclub where a once-hot rock singer (Schwetye) is trying to rejuvenate her career but is frustrated. She bonds with a grizzled session musician who's seen it all, who has some tips for her, and she's grateful for the feedback and advice.
The first act mimics L.A.'s notorious wheeling and dealing for laughs, no matter how disingenuous, and the characters are exaggerated to suit standard images we have in our minds - and is more caricature than sincere, but that's the point.
The second one really percolates with the speech patterns of experienced, world-weary musicians, and the two performers seem authentic as they discussed their working lives.
The final act, "Shoot in Santa Monica," is broader comedy and hits the nail on the head about selling out for commercial blockbusters just so you can do the smaller projects for love of the craft. Sound familiar? A stage actor from England (Hanrahan) is making his first movie and is anxious and overwhelmed. But at the urging of the director (Schwetye), he will muster his courage to deliver a speech about vanquishing their nemesis - space vampires. Not saying the lines exactly as written, it may sound like one of Winston Churchill's addresses during World War II, but who's gonna figure it out, right?
The time is 12:40 p.m. the next day. With a simple outfit change, Hanrahan conveys an actor in military garb acting in front of a 'green screen,' and his character must inspire the crowd. In a world where evil lurks in the fictional form of ridiculous monsters - and CGI-heavy movies that could be written by chimps - they know it's sci-fi crap, but hey, that's entertainment!
Hanrahan has a flair for writing about the behind-the-scenes drama - and comedy - of showbiz, and the two-person exchanges are sharp. He acknowledges a 'new normal' because of the pandemic and adds those challenges to the script.
The performers capably navigate these characters in a natural, appealing way, and it's a pleasant experience escaping a tumultuous winter as an armchair traveler whisk away to Southern California. From Melrose to the Sunset Strip to Santa Monica, we see three facets of a process that's fertile grounds for comic human exploration.
In these post-vaccinated pandemic times, Hanrahan, a brilliant storyteller, has used his talents to keep active on stage, earlier presenting two interesting one-man shows - his original crowd-pleasing nostalgic account of his childhood in the mid-60s, "Now Playing Third Base for the St. Louis Cardinals...Bond, James Bond," which he developed from a one-act first presented at the St. Louis Fringe Festival, in July, and then "Here Lies Henry," with a book by Daniel Brooks and Daniel MacIvor and directed by Schwetye, about an odd personality telling us his life story - which may or may not be true because of his penchant for alternative facts.
He has kept very busy - also performing in the five-person ensemble "It Is Magic," by one of his favorite playwrights, Mickle Maher, that comically mashes up "Macbeth" and "The Three Little Pigs" by a community theater with some very colorful characters and was directed by Suki Peters in the fall.
For this year's St. Louis Theatre Showcase (instead of the Grand Center Theatre Crawl), he presented an earlier penned one-act, "Tonight's Special."
The Midnight Company will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year - and it's quite an achievement because he has skillfully used available resources to present humorous and thought-provoking works.
For this latest production, he has brought the two accomplished professional actresses and directors along for the journey. Tibbetts, the current artistic director of the Prison Performing Arts group, and Schwetye, are leaders of SATE (Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble), a highly regarded creative troupe.
Hanrahan first worked with Tibbetts when he recruited her to direct "Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n Roll," and their association has since included his acting in SATE's "One Flea Spare," "Of Mice and Men," "Doctor Faustus," and last year's Aphra Behn Festival.
And she has acted in Midnight's "Judgment at Nuremberg" and "A Model for Matisse," which Schwetye directed, who also helmed Midnight's Irish thriller "Little Thing Big Thing," featuring Tibbetts and Hanrahan. He directed both of them in SATE's vampire drama, "Cuddles," during the 2016-2017 season.
Schwety also directs for other groups - next up in 2022 is "Every Brilliant Thing" for New Jewish Theatre.
This fruitful collaboration in "Tinsel Town" is an example of a dream team hitting all the beats well.
by Judy Newmark
December 18, 2021
As the year draws to a close, two brand-new two-handers that just debuted here hint at a bright future - for theater here and maybe for themselves. With their small casts, relative ease of staging and variety of moods, these productions could prove very appealing to troupes on the hunt for something fresh. Here, of course, they had an advantage: Top-notch casts.
At the St. Louis Actors' Studio, two outstanding St. Louis actors, Kari Ely and Spencer Sickmann, play a distinguished author and her grown son in "Comfort" by Neil LaBute, under Annamaria Pileggi's astute direction. The drama is the latest contribution in the author's long collaboration with the troupe, which holds an annual new-plays festival in his name..
Comedy rules at The Midnight Company with a "Tinsel Town," a trio of loosely-related short plays by Midnight founder Joe Hanrahan. The company's long relationship with SATE, another small and inventive troupe here, continues to flourish with this show, which costars Hanrahan and SATE co-producer Ellie Schwetye. The director, Rachel Tibbetts, is co-producer of SATE as well.
"Comfort" is the last thing LaBute's play offers its audience or, for that matter, its characters. Iris and Cal, who have not seen each other in some time, can trigger each other just by breathing. Now Cal is looking for something only Iris can give him. Good luck, Cal.
What he wants is not as big a secret as it is evidently supposed to be; it's easy enough to guess, and probably less important than either mother or son imagines. Nevertheless, the script gives the actors plenty of range and these two performers make the most of it. Ely - apparently cool as a cucumber - will lie to her son as easily as to a stranger on the phone; she puts a smooth, high-WASP gloss on a woman who can vie with Mama Rose and Medea for theatrical honors as Worst Mother Ever. (Albee's several versions of terrible mothers deserve consideration too.)
Sickmann's Cal is more sympathetic, because he was done-to instead to doing-to in this relationship and because he seems to truly love his late father. (His parents divorced when he was a child.) Nevertheless, from his criminal tendencies to his professional failures, he may be ready to turn things around and go for Iris' right in the throat. This mother-son reunion, a crossfire hurricane of insults and recriminations, eventually turns physical. One of the few truly shocking scenes the stage can still present is of a young man fighting his middle-aged mother. It could be laughable, but Pileggi and her potent actors focus on the horror show it is. Comfort hah!
Smartly designed by Teresa Doggett (costumes) and Patrick Huber (sets and lighting), "Comfort" runs through Dec. 19 at the Gaslight Theater.
Ellie Schwetye is so natural playing grand dames or slinky sophisticates that it's easy to forget how funny she is. Did Hanrahan write "Late Lunch on Melrose," the first part of "Tinsel Town," in homage to that. Playing a mature movie star who puts herself in a class with Meryl Streep - and expects everyone else to agree, she shows her agent (Hanrahan) the "poses" she has created to play her dream role, Georgia O'Keefe, while painting. Suffice it to say that no one has ever painted in these positions.
But this movie star is so self-absorbed that, trying to explain all the recent problems in the industry, she gropes for a word until her agent supplies it. "The virus," he says. Oh yes. That.
With all three plays taking place in LA during a 24-hour span, "Just Off Sunset" finds us outside a music club in the middle of the night. There, a veteran session musician (Habrahan) strikes up a conversation with a former star (Schwetye) trying for a comeback. He was in the audience and the show she and her band just performed. Commiserating over their tough business, and their preferred substances and the trouble with drummers, it's a sweet interlude in which the possibility of friendship looks even better than the possibility of love.
The show winds up with "Shoot in Santa Monica," a play in which the audience starts to laugh before a word is spoken. That's right: Hanrahan has to wait to let the audience express its delight with the hilarious "green screen" jacket that designer Elizabeth Henning has created. Hanrahan looks like a golf course come to life.
Hanrahan plays a noted London stage actor who has agreed to appear in a sci-fi movie, without knowing exactly what that might entail. His director (Schwetye) shares his disdain for the script - but assures him that if they can just get through this, it could mean more work, better work, for both of them. The actor simply has to figure out what to do with lines he can't bring himself to speak, particularly lines involving the phrase "space vampires." What he comes up with charms everyone - the actor, the director, and literate members of the audience.
Known for its bare-bones staging, Midnight continues that tradition here, where lighting and set designer Erik Kuhn sets a few chairs and tables before Michael Musgrave-Perkins' video design of LA. "Tinsel Town" runs through Dec. 18 at the .ZACH.